Fireworks calls up more than 500 percent in June

Fireworks calls up more than 500 percent in June

Blue marks on the Pawtucket map show fireworks complaints from last year, while red shows them from this year.

PAWTUCKET – The Pawtucket Police Department received 190 calls for fireworks complaints through June 19, more than five times the 34 calls received for all of June 2019.

As of June 19, the city had already seen 232 total calls for 2020, more than the totals for each of the entire three years and on pace to easily exceed the high of 343 total calls back in 2015.

Calls for service are fairly evenly distributed throughout the city, according to a map released by the Pawtucket Police Department.

Police Chief Tina Goncalves, the city’s public safety director, told the City Council in a written update that the department shares members’ concerns about the illegal use of fireworks. Responding to questions from Councilor John Barry III about “illegal fireworks that are going off all around the city,” Goncalves said the department “finds it extremely challenging to differentiate between legal versus illegal firework due to recent changes in the law.”

“Fireworks have a clear adverse effect on the quality of life of our residents,” she said.

Disturbance calls this month were much higher than June 2019 and several times higher than the high number of 66 calls in 2015.

In a map depicting locations based on calls, blue marks calls made from May 1 to July 7, 2019, and red depicts calls made in 2020.

“You can see the challenges we are facing with how spread out the calls are and we are committed to resolving,” she said.

After an initial call for service, resources are then dispersed based on the compiled information, she said. The department adds extra officers in vehicles throughout neighborhoods. Extra personnel are out and will continue to be out throughout the summer on bicycle patrols and in vehicles through the Neighborhood Response Unit, she said, passing through identified hotspots for fireworks to combat any illegal use.

“This preventative measure will be most successful if residents continue to call our department,” she said. “As you are aware, these calls are not isolated to particular areas, and this is why it is important for residents to continue to call in.”

The law change Goncalves was referring to was the state’s move a decade ago to allow most ground-based fireworks, while continuing to ban use of aerial fireworks by residents.

Goncalves said information compiled from calls allows the department to track and focus in highly concentrated areas.

“It is difficult to stop fireworks due to how quickly the act of setting them off is over in comparison to when patrol cars are able to arrive on scene,” she said. “For this reason, the Pawtucket Police Department has taken a proactive approach to have extra patrol throughout the summer months with a focus on quality of life issues, specifically illegal fireworks.”

Police and the administration, with the council’s support, will continue to work to ensure that residents’ quality of life is not diminished due to fireworks, she said.

“We completely understand the frustration of the residents as these illegal fireworks have unintended consequences for our neighbors and their pets,” she said. “It is important that constituents please continue to contact us immediately if they hear or see any illegal fireworks.”

A chart shows the substantial increase in complaints about fireworks in Pawtucket this year.