The City of Lincoln City’s new ‘Keep it Legal, Keep it Safe’ campaign used to limit illegal fireworks from town has raised some interesting questions among the City Council members.
At the Aug. 26 City Council meeting, City Manager Ron Chandler gave a report on the results of their campaign that focused on Fourth of July firework activity in town.
“Following the Fourth of July, we had a meeting with various interested residents that gave us some suggestions on things that we could implement to help improve the problems that we have with illegal fireworks coming in from the from outside the area,” Chandler said.
Chandler said they know the illegal fireworks are generally coming in from the state of Washington and are being shot off throughout the city, on the beach, in neighborhoods and on the streets. This year, the City attempted a few things around the Fourth of July to try to limit that activity.
"We tried to strike a balance of saying we still love to have you here and don't go somewhere else, but please don't bring your fireworks,” Chandler said. “That proved to be quite a challenge.”
The City tried various things from distributing 1,500 flyers throughout the community detailing prohibited fireworks, they placed 20 large signs at all beach access points in town and launched a Facebook campaign through both the Police Department and Explore Lincoln City. Through the social media campaign, the posts reached 546,000 accounts and generated 5,625 clicks that linked to their web page that gave more information.
“From a financial standpoint, that's a pretty successful campaign at just under $1 per click,” Chandler said. “By comparison with some of the other campaigns where they've used Facebook, it’s about half the price. So it turned out to in all total, this was about just under $5,000 for this campaign.”
Despite the success of the campaign, Chandler said there were still issues throughout the City over the holiday weekend involving illegal fireworks. So, the city got together again and began to look at more ways in which they can improve, the biggest area of improvement seemed to be in enforcement.
“I have to say the number one request that we received from our residents was more ticketing, more actions, including arrests,” Chandler said. “It is a crime to have illegal fireworks, which is a misdemeanor. But what we really want to do is to try to create an offense that isn't necessarily a misdemeanor, so that we can go beyond just confiscating.”
Chandler stated that if someone voluntarily gives up their fireworks, they do not have to follow the rules of evidence. If they are given tickets or are arrested, then they follow the rules of evidence, which creates a much longer process.
This sparked a discussion amongst the City Council, in particular Councilmen Mitch Parsons who is in favor of more enforcement for illegal fireworks.
“What other crimes do we just let go and don't write tickets for?” Parsons said. “The council made it a priority to enforce code and we enforced less this year than we did last year. Why aren't we writing tickets?”
Mayor Dick Anderson reiterated that the purpose of the campaign was more on education and less on enforcement.
“I think the issue was to try to soften the negative impact of fireworks,” Anderson said. “And I would say actions were taken with a number of staff and personnel and education.”
Chandler mentioned a few other possibilities for improvement including enhancing their Rhino Beach Vehicles to make them look more like law enforcement to discourage illegal firework use, as well as changing the nature of the City’s firework show.
“There's a couple of options that I seen other communities do,” Chandler said. “One that is becoming a little more popular is the use of drones.”
Chandler said the current firework show costs about $25,000 for about a 20 to 25 minute show. For a drone display at that price point, the City could get 250 drones for an eight minute show, that will change three times.
“So of it like a marching band, except you're looking up at it, they move around, stay there for a couple of minutes, they move around, stay there for a couple minutes, and so forth,” Chandler said.
Chandler said they would continue to have discussions about how they can improve for next year. However, Council members such as Diana Hinton believe the issue spreads beyond just the normal holiday seasons.
“This doesn't just happen on New Years and Fourth of July, just last Thursday, there were two huge fireworks that went off not too far from my home,” Hinton said. “It happens all year round. I think if we do the things that you laid out here, I think that it’s really going to make a big dent in some of these other things that we hear during the rest of the year.”