East Moline city leaders pledged to crack down on illegal fireworks after several residents reported continuing to hear fireworks weeks after the Fourth of July holiday.
Consumer fireworks aren’t allowed at any time in East Moline, and Bettendorf and Davenport residents can set off consumer-grade fireworks only in the afternoons and evenings of July 3 and July 4.
The city of East Moline received 67 fireworks complaints and issued one citation from the Fourth of July onward. On the holiday, the city received 36 complaints. One particular area made a large share of those calls.
East Moline Police Capt. Brian Foltz said 18 calls in the weeks since the Fourth were from Crowne Forest Apartments in East Moline or nearby along 48th Street.
Residents and neighbors of Crowne Forest said they'd heard fireworks going off late into the evening on many nights since July 4. About a dozen nearby East Moline residents attended Monday’s city council meeting to reiterate concerns about the loud noises.
For some apartment residents — a former truck driver who is used to sleeping with loud noises and an 81-year-old who doesn’t mind the few times she hears the fireworks — it’s not an intrusion. For others, mothers of infants and toddlers, pet owners and veterans, the pop and crackle of illegal fireworks add another stressor and disruption.
Rebecca McDowell, a resident of Crowne Forest Apartments, has a hard time getting her 5-month-old to sleep. By the time her daughter does finally fall asleep, the “pop-pop-pop” of fireworks in the early hours wakes her, despite music playing or a fan circling, McDowell said.
“It’s ridiculous,” she said.
Pinpointing who is setting off fireworks is challenging, Foltz said.
“The difficulty is we get called, and when we respond they see the squad car, and they’re gone by the time we get there,” Foltz said.
Foltz said officers do drive-bys and have set up undercover cars to try to catch whomever is setting off the fireworks.
Setting off fireworks could come with a hefty price.
A citation could cost anywhere from $100 to $750, Foltz said. Usually when police officers find someone setting off fireworks, they warn the resident they could get a citation and fine, and ask them to stop and clean up the fireworks debris. Foltz said the single citation the East Moline department issued was to a person who didn’t comply and didn’t clean up the fireworks.
For next year, Foltz said the department needed to look at ways to communicate the consequences of setting off fireworks in the city limits.
“We have to let people know that we are going to have a zero-tolerance policy,” Foltz said. “The Fourth is one thing, but they’re lighting them off before the Fourth and weeks after the Fourth. It needs to stop.”
Pat Hurley, senior community manager at Dominium, the company that manages the Crowne Forest Apartments, said the management issued a notice to every resident explaining that setting off fireworks on the property would be considered a lease violation.
Hurley said he saw remnants of fireworks set off in the parking lot during the Fourth holiday after visiting July 6, but he said he hadn’t heard any resident fireworks complaints since.
From what he’d gathered from staff members, Hurley said, fireworks were being set off on 48th Avenue, north of the complex, and not on Crowne Forest property since the first incident. If so, Hurley said that wouldn’t be in the apartment management’s jurisdiction to enforce.
“We want to work with our neighbors, if there is anything we can do that falls within the line of items that we can take care of,” Hurley said. “We didn’t even know that there was a problem or that neighbors would be at the city council meeting.”
About a dozen residents of the adjacent neighborhoods attended a city council meeting to ask council members to more strictly enforce the no-fireworks ordinance.
“I was here a year ago, after a particularly long Fourth of July period. And I feel like we’re dealing with the same thing. We just have, in my opinion, we are just way too lax on what we're doing,” said East Moline resident Gregg Johnson. “We're running into a 23-day period of fireworks being fired off until 3 or 4 in the morning. For me personally, it's not a big deal but ... we have veterans suffering from PTSD, it's really hard on pet owners. I know there's a lot of calls that go out.”
East Moline Mayor Reggie Freeman told residents at Monday’s meeting the police department planned to step up enforcement, but finding people setting off fireworks is challenging.
“We’re looking at stepping up enforcement,” Freeman said. “I don’t know if you read the paper, but they had an article — every city is facing the same thing. We’re going to do the best we can.”
Other cities face similar fireworks complaints beyond the Fourth of July.
The city of Davenport used 10 civilian spotters this year who were charged with spotting possible fireworks violations and serving as a witness once law enforcement arrived.
Davenport Fire Marshal Jim Morris told the Davenport City Council Tuesday that Davenport police fielded 700 fireworks calls over three months, a decrease from more than 1,130 fireworks complaints during the same time the previous year, which he credited to a public outreach campaign.
Across the Quad-Cities during the Fourth of July weekend, fireworks injuries sent 13 people to emergency rooms and local police departments responded to hundreds of fireworks calls.
Foltz told council members the department could do more information campaigns and try to be more discreet.
“We get a call and we go and they're gone by the time you get there,” Foltz said on Monday. “That's why we're trying to get unmarked cars out there. Next year, we've talked about doing something with the media to let people know there's going to be fines.”