SAN JOSE, Calif. - A San Jose resident said he’s been wrongly accused of setting off illegal fireworks on July 4. He’s now contesting a warning notice he received in the mail.
Three years ago, the city issued citations to the wrong people and had to rescind all of them. The fire department promised to tighten its online tool and said the number of complaints this year was unprecedented.
“This year it was crazy,” said Charlie Murray of San Jose. “It’s hard to describe the intensity of the fireworks.”
Murray called the fireworks during the Fourth of July holiday in San Jose is disappointing. The fireworks terrified his Golden Labrador. With too much illegal activity going on, he didn’t call the cops.
Days later, Murray received a notice in the mail for a fireworks-related violation.
“I’m totally against fireworks,” said Murray. “I was minding the dogs. I was really annoyed about what was going on so the fact that I received this in the mail I was dumfounded. I couldn't believe it. I had to read it a few times.”
Back in 2017, the city wrongly issued $500 citations to dozens of residents with no real proof later dropping the fines.
Jeff Levine is with the “Stop Illegal Fireworks” group in San Jose.
“It’s a comedy of errors,” said Levine. “It’s an ill thought out implementation of something that possibly could work if they had done more work on the thing.”
In a statement, the San Jose Fire Department said, “We see this 4th of July as a major setback in our anti-fireworks campaign. We saw unprecedented levels of fireworks activity, likely attributed to the unusual circumstances in which we find ourselves due to COVID.”
The fire department said it received 6,100 complaints online, 94 warnings and five citations were issued or under review.
Authorities also said citations are only issued where the evidence is clear noting a process for residents to contest a citation.
Murray said he’s called the number to do just that but was unable to leave a message. He’d now like a correction notice.
“I understand they are trying to stop illegal fireworks going off,” said Murray. “I totally support them for that. I think it's the right thing to do but they also need a system that targets who is actually doing it and not waste time on people who haven't done it at all.”
Murray is subject to future fines. He said he’s the only one in his neighborhood to receive the warning. The fire department is expected to come up with another way to dispute claims in the coming days.