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Santa Monica Council Refuses to Ban Fireworks Despite Crime Data

August 14, 1986|JAY GOLDMAN | Times Staff Writer

The Santa Monica City Council, for the second time in four months, has rejected the recommendations of a city staff report and refused to ban the trouble-prone fireworks shows on the Fourth of July.

However, the council agreed to reconsider the issue in 60 days when city officials will have completed another report on alternatives to the traditional July 4 fireworks show on Santa Monica beaches.

"We should look into ways to solve the problems before eliminating fireworks," Councilman Herb Katz said.

City Manager John Jalili, Police Chief James F. Keane and Fire Chief Tom Tolman had recommended in May that the council ban fireworks displays because the shows, which attract up to 500,000 people, have been plagued by a steady increase in crime, fires sparked by private fireworks and heavy traffic congestion.

The council in May voted 4 to 3 to continue fireworks shows, including the 25-year-old, city-sponsored display held next to the Santa Monica Pier.

Crime in the crowds watching at the July 4 displays at the pier, the Sand and Sea Club and the Jonathan Club increased again this year, according to the police portion of the report. Felonies, including the shooting death of a 16-year-old boy this year, increased from nine in 1985 to 12 in 1986.

Fires on the bluffs and beach decreased from seven in 1985 to one this year.

What the statistics do not show, the report said, is that there were so many calls for police that officers could respond only to reports of felonies even though every officer on the 179-member police force was on duty the evening of July 4. The report states that "between about 9 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. only felony violations were handled" in the beach area.

The report also said police estimated there were 200 fights in the beach area during the festivities.

Chief Keane said that even with a ban on fireworks, "July 4 will still be our biggest day of the year." But "just eliminate that nighttime attraction and we can use our officers to work on criminal activity instead of traffic control."

The report also compared this year's dozen felony arrests with the two felony arrests police made during Memorial Day and the single felony arrest last Labor Day.

"Based on this it looks like the fireworks displays do indeed cause a good portion of the problem," City Manager Jalili said. "The safety of visitors and citizens is at stake."

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