This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.
Tacoma police say this is the year that they really will get tough with the pyromaniacs who turn neighborhoods into war zones.
Law-abiding city residents who already have spent too many nights worrying about stray rockets and too many mornings searching for their terrified cats want to believe them.
Past experience would advise against holding out too much hope. Despite the Tacoma City Council’s declaration in 2007 that the city was serious about its fireworks ban, the police department’s follow-through has been disappointing.
Ten tickets were issued that first year, and 25 in 2008 – progress to be sure, but not the kind of crackdown that fireworks-frazzled Tacomans know it will take to quiet the nightly barrage.
Now, Capt. Mike Miller, who oversees the city’s fireworks enforcement, says police hope to make this the breakthrough year. They’re aiming for "a lollapalooza type of change," he says.
There is reason to believe they might succeed. Not only is the department dedicating more manpower to the job –up to 20 additional officers will be on patrol each night through the weekend – but it also is partnering with Puyallup tribal police to stem the sales of illegal fireworks on tribal land.
Vendors are allowed to sell "safe and sane" fireworks on tribal reservations, but often unsafe and insane explosives also readily available. A reporter for the Everett Herald recently had little trouble finding M-80s, cherry bombs and even dynamite to buy at the Tulalip Indian Reservation’s annual fireworks market.
Enforcement is complicated by tribal sovereignty. Outside of tribal police, only federal authorities have jurisdiction on tribal land. By the time the feds investigate reports of illegal activity, the bad actors and their contraband are usually long gone.
Even when the tribal stands are operating legally, too many buyers decide to sneak fireworks back into communities that don’t allow them.
In the past, tribal merchants haven’t concerned themselves much with the ultimate destination of their wares. That Tacoma cops and Puyallup tribal police plan to work together on enforcement patrols and on patrolling Portland Avenue Park – a popular site for amateur fireworks shows – bodes well for discouraging would-be scofflaws.
With the forecast calling for a warm and a dry week leading up to Saturday’s main event, mere common sense would recommend leaving the dazzling displays to the professionals. And if it doesn’t prevail, here’s hoping a Tacoma cop is nearby to catch the show.