We’ve had questions about fireworks enforcement from two readers:
My neighborhood on New Year’s Eve was lit up as if I were on the Baton Rouge riverfront, no at Times Square, the Washington Monument. The extra duty police were present and did nothing.
Is the prohibition on setting off fireworks in East Baton Rouge Parish being enforced?
Well … yes and no.
Sheriff’s spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks notes that deputies responded to 102 fireworks complaints in 2014, up from 97 in 2013.
Sgt. Mary Ann Godawa, public information officer for the Baton Rouge Police Department, could not give a detailed account because their dispatch records do not distinguish between “fireworks” and “shot fired.” Nevertheless, she said: “We do respond to each and every fireworks/shots fired call that comes in through communications.”
Fireworks are dangerous. People get hurt (an estimated 9,000 injuries across the country each year), occasionally a structure is set on fire and occasionally they’ve been used as weapons, as in the 2014 incident when someone threw lit fireworks at protestors in Lafayette.
So, you’d imagine in Baton Rouge City Court and state District Court for East Baton Rouge we’d find a fair number of cases of violations of the city-parish’s pyrotechnics ordinance, Section 13:1005, or the state’s restrictions in R.S.51:650.
You’d be wrong.
The paperwork City Court Administrator Lon Norris sent us for 2013 and 2014 shows just a handful of cases.
“There were very few prosecutions in City Court for this offense,” Norris admitted. “The dispositions vary from dismissal to guilty pleas to a reduced offense, such as nuisance. The last three cases remain pending, and one case was transferred to District Court.”
The information from Greg MacMaster with the parish Clerk of Court’s Office shows just one case filed in 2013 and two in 2014 in District Court.
Violation of the parish ordinance — prohibiting regular folks from “visible and audible pyrotechnic display” of sparklers, squibs, rockets, firecrackers, roman candles, signal lights, fireworks, etc. — can bring a fine of up to $500 and/or a sentence of up to six months in jail.
Our guess is that most of the scofflaws skeedaddle once the law is called … and then regroup when the coast is clear.
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