Enforcing Fireworks Ordinances 'Tough' for Lansing

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Some Lansing residents say it's been quiet so far in the days leading up to the Fourth of July, but they aren't quick to forget the busy and noisy years past.

"Basically from eight til three in the morning that's all you hear is fireworks nonstop," said Jazmyne Guy, who lives downtown. "Too many people, too many fireworks. It's kind of hard to track down every single person."

That's Guy's assessment of how the city will -- or rather won't -- be able to enforce its fireworks ordinance. Passed through the city council last year, people can only shoot off fireworks on the day before, of and after a national holiday.

It's as strict as state law will allow, though cities, villages and townships are free to set their own ordinances. The City of Jackson's ordinance mirrors Lansing's.

Mayor Virg Bernero says the ordinance is as strict as state law will allow, but it will be difficult to hold people to it.

"Fireworks are popular; they're an American tradition," he said. "So trying to enforce just three days is a very, very difficult thing. It's challenging for law enforcement."

The sheer number of people who don't know the ordinance even exists is the city's first major hurdle, he said.

"I don't have unlimited funds to send people notices," he said. "We're going out and educating those folks, letting them know what the law says, asking for their compliance. And if we get compliance, great, and if we don't they're getting a ticket."

The ticket is $500 in Lansing and Jackson, but Bernero anticipates most first-time offenders getting slapped with warnings initially.

That's the attitude at the Lansing Police Department too, which will have extra hands on deck during the holiday.

"We want to go out and be able to tell people," said Sgt. Jeromy Churchill. "We may not be able to cite them but sometimes if we go out and talk to them, that ends the negative activity. And that's what most people want anyway."

But fireworks calls are a low priority for police, Bernero said, meaning response times could be slow.

Still, Churchill said, the best thing to do is call 911. The mayor doesn't advise confronting someone yourself.

Adding to the difficulty, an officer must actually see fireworks being illegally ignited to cite someone. The city attorney may fine you if they receive an affidavit from a witness.

Jackson Mayor Jason Smith says you could also be cited for a noise violation. He says it's most important to give the police an address. That way, they know exactly where to go and can get there as quickly as possible.

He says he believes the ordinance is enforceable, noting several people have already received fines this year.

But Jackson City Council Member Andrew Frounfelker says there will not be extra patrols just for fireworks. It's just not financially feasible he said.

The key to an enjoyable holiday, Frounfelker said, is being nice to your neighbor, a point Bernero agrees with.

"We're really asking for people to just exercise their common sense and courtesy," he said. "Think about your neighbors and most people do."

Churchill echoed that sentiment, asking people to be considerate.

"Some peoples' good time can be another person's loud nuisance that interferes with their good time," he said. "So we ride a fine line and we try to make sure everyone has a safe and happy 4th of July."

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