2013-07-12 / In the News

Police: Most fireworks calls are noise related

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

While most of the town’s residents had a day off to enjoy the sunny skies and summer swelter on the Fourth of July, officers in the Scarborough Police Department were busy making sure the town was safe during the Independence Day holiday.

Part of that work was to ensure residents and visitors were abiding by the ordinance for when, where and how to use consumer fireworks.

“I think it went fairly well,” said Detective Sgt. Rick Rouse. “Looking at the numbers, there were the same amount of complaints this year as last year. Some of the calls we fielded were about the difference between the state law and the ordinance we have here.”

In March 2012, the Scarborough Town Council adopted a local ordinance that stated consumer fireworks could only be used on private property during a five-day period around the Fourth of July and New Year’s Day.

This year, it meant consumer fireworks could only be used from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on July 3 and July 5 and 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on July 4.

The Scarborough ordinance is an adaptation of a state law enacted by Gov. Paul LePage in January 2012 that made it legal for the public to purchase, possess and use consumer fireworks.

The Scarborough Police and Fire Departments spent much of the time leading up to the Independence Day holiday last year educating the public about the new ordinance. Scarborough Fire Chief B. Michael Thurlow said educational outreach must continue.

“Education is really important. A lot of folks, particularly from away, don’t know Scarborough has a special ordinance that numbers the days you can use (fireworks),” Thurlow said.

According to statistics from the Scarborough Police Department, between Jan. 1, 2012 and July 2, 2012, police fielded 113 fireworks complaints.

Between July 3 and July 5, 2012 — the first time residents could use consumer fireworks in Scarborough in a generation — police fielded 45 fireworks complaints. From July 6, 2012 through Dec. 31, 2012, police had 114 fireworks complaints.

Between January and July 2, 2013, the number of fireworks complaints fell to 41. The number of fireworks complaints between Wednesday, July 3 and Friday, July 5 also fell from last year’s figures. On July 3, police responded to 11 complaints, including nine after the permitted hours and several in the Old Blue Point Road neighborhood.

On July 4, police responded to four complaints of early morning fireworks, two complaints during permitted hours and four complaints of late night fireworks.

Police responded to 13 complaints on July 5, including seven between 10 p.m. and 10:52 p.m.

While complaints came from all over Scarborough, police were called to King Street in the Pine Point section of town six times last week, including three times in the 9 a.m. hour on the morning of Saturday, July 6.

Despite the steady calls about fireworks going off after the 10 p.m. hour on July 3 and July 5, Rouse said a lot of residents using fireworks seemed to know when they could and could not use them.

“On Friday night, I was working Beech Ridge Speedway and (the fireworks) died right down at 10 p.m., so it seemed like people were going by the time and date that they are allowed to do them,” Rouse said.

The majority of the calls police did field, he said, were due to noise complaints.

“The biggest issue we saw as far as fireworks are concerned doesn’t have anything to do with safety. It was more of a noise complaint issue,” Rouse said, adding that, to his knowledge, there were no arrests or summonses for fireworks ordinance violations.

Thurlow, however, maintains fireworks could be a safety issue if not used properly.

“I have the same safety concerns as my peers in the communities that banned them. When the whole issue came up last year I went to the Town Council and educated them what the state law was and what products consumers could use,” Thurlow said. “It really is the Town Council, as the policy board, that decides what to do. They struck a compromise to allow fireworks to be used, but also setting strict guidelines.”

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