‘Let the professionals handle it’: Elgin police reminding residents that fireworks are dangerous and prohibited

With the Fourth of July holiday on the horizon, Elgin police are ramping up their annual education and enforcement efforts to curb the use of illegal fireworks.

“We’re trying to be more proactive in getting the word out there, either on Facebook or going to people’s houses,” Elgin police Cmdr. Heather Lencioni said. “We just want everybody to be safe.”

Officers started conducting walks and talks this week in areas that have previously received a high number of fireworks complaints. People previously cited for using illegal fireworks received a letter from the department reminding them of the city’s ordinance and the escalating fines for repeat offenders.

The department’s special fireworks detail started its efforts on June 14 and will be in place until July 7, with officers working overtime, specifically to respond to fireworks calls.

Complaints have been trending down in the city for the past few years after spiking during the pandemic. Elgin police received 412 calls for service regarding fireworks in June and July of 2023, down from 536 in 2022.

Last year, the Elgin City Council amended the penalty scale of its fireworks ordinance to raise the fines for repeat offenders, upping the maximum penalty from $750 to as high as $1,500 for a third offense within a year.

“It’s a zero-tolerance thing. I don’t think we could be any more forthcoming with what our intent is,” Lencioni said.

  Elgin residents can pick up yard signs at city hall to remind neighbors that fireworks are illegal. Rick West/

The city is providing free yard signs with messages encouraging people to respect their neighbors, especially veterans and pets, around the holiday. There are three versions of the sign available in English and Spanish that can be picked up at city hall Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Lencioni said the annual crackdown is not about trying to ruin a good time but emphasizing public safety.

“We try to push as much education out there as possible about the dangers,” Lencioni said. “The last thing we want to have to respond to on July Fourth is a little kid having their hand disfigured or somebody losing an eye because of fireworks that were discharged improperly.”

The city will hold its annual Fourth of July celebration at Festival Park, with live music, food trucks, games and more. The fireworks are scheduled to start at around 9:20 p.m.

“We really want people to go downtown and enjoy our fireworks. Let the professionals handle it,” she said. “I don’t know how many bad YouTube videos people have to watch before they realize maybe they shouldn’t be doing that.”

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