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Davenport enlisted 'spotters' to document fireworks violations, aid in issuing citations
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Davenport enlisted 'spotters' to document fireworks violations, aid in issuing citations

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The city of Davenport fielded 700 fireworks complaints from May to July and issued 13 citations with the help of civilian spotters.

"The city employed a new hybrid, cross-departmental enforcement strategy including representatives from the police and fire departments, and civilians from a variety of other departments," Davenport Fire Marshal Jim Morris told Davenport City Council members Tuesday during a city management update meeting.

"This partnership allowed for a minimum of two dedicated law enforcement vehicles and four civilian spotter teams who were charged with spotting potential fireworks violations and serving as the witness upon law enforcement arrival," Morris said.

A total of 10 civilian spotters participated, he said, adding that police and fire officials analyzed dates, times and locations of fireworks-related complaints received in prior years to target their enforcement.

"As the night went on, if the calls came in and there was nothing going on in that area, then we would relocate just so we were productive," Morris said.

He could not immediately provide a figure as to how much the city spent on enforcement this year, including the use of spotters.

Morris said Davenport police received 700 fireworks-related calls for service during that period, a sharp decrease from the more than 1,130 firework-related complaints received by police during the same time last year.

He credited the decreases to increased enforcement and public outreach campaign, using social media and mailing postcards to every Davenport household to educate the public about the narrow window when fireworks could lawfully be discharged in the city, encouraging safe fireworks use and warning residents of potential fines. A first offense could cost up to $400 including court costs.

Morris said the Davenport Fire Department responded to 13 fire calls, a majority of which involved outside fires that were all minor, with no reported injuries and each handled by a single engine company.

Of the 13 fire calls, eight involved dumpster fires, one involved a vehicle fire and none were structure fires, Morris said. The rest were brush fires.

"For the first time since 2017 (when legislation was passed ending a longstanding ban on retail fireworks sales in Iowa), we had zero response for injury from fireworks," Morris said. "Typically, we average five to six" fireworks-related injuries since the law changed.

While only 13 citations were issued out of 700 calls for service, because spotters and law enforcement did not witness the fireworks violations, law enforcement still responded to deter illegal fireworks use from continuing, Morris said.

"We still mitigated for the night, and that was kind of a big deal for the public to call and us to be able to respond there in a timely fashion and let them know ... you're going to get a fine or a ticket if we see you do this, and it stops," Morris said. "So there is some benefit, even though there may not have been a citation. I felt like we educated the community in a big way just for the times we were out."


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