Flagler County Sheriff's Office responded to 23 fireworks incidents but made no arrests. State law requires a deputy to witness an illegal firework before making an arrest.
Once again this Fourth of July, Palm Coast sounded like a war zone, and, once again, there was the blatant and pervasive disregard of state and county fireworks laws, as well as the usual lack of enforcement of these laws.
In the past, dozens of illegal fireworks complaints were called in to the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office each year by Palm Coast residents. These complaints sadly always resulted in zero arrests, zero citations issued and not even any confiscations of illegal fireworks. This year the Sheriff’s Office posted a news release with a ominous warning about buying, possessing and using illegal fireworks. The stern verbiage in the news release suggested that just maybe now the laws might actually be enforced. However, in 2018, according to Sheriff’s Office records, the results were unfortunately the same: zero.
The illegal fireworks offenders carry on with impunity. They continue to joke about the silly Florida Agricultural Exemption form they sign when they buy illegal fireworks claiming to be using the fireworks to scare off birds eating their crops. They continue to send the message to their kids that the laws are a joke and the cops don’t care. They are insensitive and so self-absorbed with their own thrill of the big loud explosion, they could care less about the law, about terrorizing pets and wildlife, about disturbing the peace of others, about the risk of injury or creating a fire hazard. They are not law abiding citizens and are not good neighbors, and they should be held accountable.
It is time to enact stricter county fireworks related ordinances with more severe penalties and most importantly, since our not-so-good neighbors probably won’t change, enforcement needs to substantially improve.
Editor's Note: The following statement was sent to the Palm Coast Observer from the Sheriff's Office in response to Bob Gordon's letter:
"During the July 4th holiday, the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office handled 420 incidents. Of those, 23 incidents were fireworks related. There were no arrests for fireworks.
"Many of the fireworks incidents were reports of fireworks in the area, but no precise location for deputies to investigate. It is difficult to investigate and take criminal action on incidents related to fireworks as the deputy must be able to see who used the firework and recover evidence that the firework was illegally used. The charge associated with the illegal use of a firework is a misdemeanor. Florida law states that a misdemeanor crime must occur in the presence of a law enforcement officer in order for the officer to make an arrest.
"The Sheriff’s Office can only respond within the guidelines of state law. Florida Legislature created a Consumer Fireworks Task Force in 2008 to review the issue. The law creating the Task Force prohibited local government from creating laws to regulate fireworks."