Frustrated residents say San Jose campaign to stop illegal fireworks failed

Frustration and anger are mounting over the nonstop barrage of illegal fireworks displays in San Jose. Officials say $50,000 was spent on a public outreach campaign, including lawn signs, billboards and bus signs. Many residents said the campaign didn’t work.

Jeff Levine’s home camera captured video of the series of explosions over downtown San Jose Tuesday night.  He calls the illegal fireworks “Baghdad by the Bay.”

“The power of the mortars that were blown in the air were probably 10 times greater than I’ve ever seen,” said Levine.

He has years of videos, showing not sparklers but nonstop aerial mortars every Fourth of July. This year he says, it's gotten out of control.

“They don't deploy the resources,” said Levine. “People have provided tips of people illegally selling and I don't think anything is happening besides the one big bust that the San Jose Police Department had.”

The city of San Jose has vowed to crack down; passing ordinances, posting signs, and creating stiffer penalties.

“In some parts of the city we heard it was maybe a little better than last year and some parts of the city it was really bad,” said City of San Jose Spokeswoman Cheryl Wessling.

Neither San Jose Police nor San Jose Fire had numbers on citations issued. A city spokeswoman said the city received 900 complaints through its online reporting system in the last two weeks. 500 of them were from Tuesday night alone.
“It is a really difficult issue and we have a limited number of enforcement personnel,” said Wessling. “It's a 180 square mile city. It's a very big city.”

“Too bad. We have rights as citizens,” said San Jose Resident Suzanne Morrone. “We have to do something to change this.”

Morrone wishes law enforcement would focus on major hotspots like the one on Bonita and East San Antonio Street. There was evidence of fireworks debris left behind in a big pile Wednesday.

“When there's a fireworks show, they need to cite everyone there watching,” said Morrone. “It's an illegal activity. If police can't cite who is setting off the fireworks without seeing it, they need to cite everybody.”

Some residents said if the city doesn't have the manpower to fight the fire power in the sky, more resources should be brought in.

A city spokeswoman said there were a few small fires Tuesday night and at last one fireworks related injury but did not have specifics.

Officials are asking residents to bring unused fireworks to fire stations so they can be properly disposed, no questions asked.