Daily Herald opinion: Let the pros handle the pyrotechnics this Fourth of July
The sound of illegal fireworks becomes increasingly common this time of the year in our neighborhoods. It's an annoying, though understandable, fact of life in the suburbs with the Fourth of July holiday just two weeks away.
Still, Elgin is trying to combat the problem by raising fines for repeat offenders, increasing the maximum penalty from $750 to up to $1,500 for a third offense within a year. City Council members also agreed last week to make it mandatory for anyone who receives a citation to appear in the city's administrative adjudication court.
The heftier fines come as Elgin police are working to crack down on illegal fireworks leading up to July 4.
"We do a lot to try to curtail fireworks complaints," Elgin Police Chief Ana Lalley said before the council vote. "We'd like to have it in place for the officers to be able to have something they can use."
Our Rick West reported last week that the department's zero-tolerance approach comes after it received more than 3,500 calls about fireworks in the last five years, almost a third of which came in 2020. Though complaints are down by half since the spike in 2020, it's still twice what it was before the pandemic.
On Friday, Lalley acknowledged on her weekly radio show that the city will never get to a point where it has no complaints about fireworks.
"But we have to do our best to continue to drive those numbers down," she said.
We applaud the effort by Elgin and other police departments to keep people safe.
Because there is a good reason Illinois prohibits individuals from selling or using fireworks, including firecrackers, bottle rockets and mortars.
According to the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal, 44 hospitals and health care facilities statewide reported that 120 people were injured by fireworks in 2022. Approximately one-third of the people hurt suffered multiple injuries.
In addition to possibly injuring the people who use them, fireworks could start fires, especially during the dry weather conditions we currently are experiencing. Do you really want to be the guy who started a grass fire in a neighbor's yard with a bottle rocket?
Then there is the need to be sensitive to pets. Experts say loud noises, including the crackling of fireworks, can cause stress to both dogs and cats, although dogs are more susceptible.
We also need to be respectful of people who are dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Meanwhile, a list of suburban cities and villages are spending tens of thousands of dollars on massive fireworks shows. Any of those displays will be far better than shooting off Roman candles in the street.
So let's leave the pyrotechnics to the professionals and have a happy and safe Fourth of July.