It was a quieter Fourth of July than normal for police in Arlington and Marysville, even as Arlington entered their first year of enforcing a city-wide fireworks prohibition.
In years past, residents could sometimes be difficult about illegal fireworks, said Arlington Police Chief Jonathan Ventura.
“It can be a really difficult time when you have had people drinking all day, and sometimes they have this belief that fireworks are almost a 2nd Amendment right for them,” he said.
However, Ventura said he was pleasantly surprised with how the Fourth of July went last week.
“Everybody was really cooperative this year, actually, and there were no major issues,” he said.
Arlington police responded to 75 calls about fireworks during the evening of July 4.
Meanwhile in Marysville, police responded to 139 calls for service between July 1 and 5.
“It was fairly calm this year,” said Marysville patrol sergeant Jeffrey Franzen, one of the public information officers for the department.
“There were no fireworks citations between July 1 and July 5,” he said.
They did, however, give out 12 warnings during their calls.
Arlington officers handed out 30 written warnings and documented where they responded to and to whom they issued warnings.
They issued no tickets and did not confiscate any fireworks this year.
As this was the first year with the fireworks prohibition in Arlington, Ventura said police officers were encouraged to go with an educational approach and primarily issue warnings.
“It was literally four days after the pandemic restrictions were lifted and the last thing we wanted to do at that time was be heavy handed, so we were giving people the benefit of the doubt,” he said. “I think it was the right decision to provide this education work to get the public informed."
He expects the city’s enforcement to increase gradually over the next couple of years.
“The way the ordinance is written there is a three-year ramp up,” said Ventura.
The fine this year for a violation would have been $103, and that amount will increase to $257 next year and $513 the year after that.
That fine is in addition to the penalty of confiscation of fireworks.
Responding to fireworks calls can be difficult for police. In Marysville, 67 of the 139 call responses were recorded as ‘gone on arrival.’
In Arlington, 42 of the responses did not receive a warning or written notice.
“Either we responded and there was no longer anyone in the area, or we couldn’t identify specifically which person set off the fireworks,” said Ventura.
Issuing a citation can be difficult as officers often have to witness someone in the act of lighting a firework.
This year there were six officers on the Fourth of July shift for Arlington focused specifically on fireworks when the department usually only has three officers.
Ventura said the department plans to put more staff on the issue each Fourth of July, although it may not be that much every year as there are typically a lot of events on the holiday that officers already have a responsibility to help out at.
He wanted to thank those who refrained from using fireworks.
“I think most people took to heart the new law and didn’t use fireworks,” said Ventura.
The trend across Snohomish County over the last decade has been for more and more cities, and now even unincorporated areas in the south county, to ban fireworks.
“It’s not about the fireworks so much as the repeat injuries and the fires that are caused. It’s really a small number of people that are ruining it,” said Ventura.
“And I love fireworks, but after working this job for 20 years, I look at it through a different lens now," he added.