Jul 14, 2022 - News

Des Moines councilperson wants to change city's response to fireworks

Illustration of scissors cutting a lit fuse on a firecracker.
Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Des Moines would revise how it responds to complaints and gives tickets to fireworks violators under a proposal that will be made by city councilperson Connie Boesen next week, she tells Axios.

  • Preliminary ideas include hiring a team of off-duty officers around next year's Fourth of July holiday.

Why it matters: Frustration is festering in the aftermath of this year's holiday.

Catch up fast: State lawmakers reversed an 80-year ban on most fireworks in 2017, prompting some cities to pass their own ordinances restricting their sales and use.

  • A new law this year removed most of a local government's ability to regulate where consumer fireworks are purchased after some cities had limited them to industrial areas.

State of play: No DSM police officers were assigned to fireworks-specific duty this year because of tight staffing, Sgt. Paul Parizek told Axios this week.

  • Other emergency calls take priority and — by the time police respond — the issue is often resolved or witnesses don't want to pursue action or can't positively identify the violators, he said.
  • A first-offense citation can result in a $600 fine.

The big picture: Other cities are dealing with similar headaches, multiple members of the Metro Area Advisory Council (MAC) said during a meeting Tuesday.

  • Urbandale's experience was made worse this year by the expansion of fireworks sales, Mayor Bob Andeweg said.
  • A "lack of basic common sense" from some people resulted in neighborhood spats and at least two Waukee house fires, Mayor Courtney Clarke said.

The other side: Perry prohibited most fireworks and placed signs around the city making note of the ban.

  • Police there wrote about 10 citations, sending a message that resulted in fewer overall problems, Mayor John Andorf told the MAC.

What's next: Pending council approval next week, DSM city staff will review and recommend solutions that could be adopted in coming months

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