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F-M cops got plenty of fireworks complaints this year, but it’s been worse

FARGO – In the days leading up to Independence Day and on July 4, 2018, cops in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo were called nearly 200 times with complaints about fireworks.

“People are upset that somebody else in their neighborhood, their neighbors or somebody in the area, is lighting fireworks,” Fargo police spokeswoman Jessica Schindeldecker said Thursday, July 5.

Even in West Fargo, where fireworks are legal for a part of that time, there were plenty of calls.

West Fargo police Lt. Adam Gustafson said many residents are well aware of the law and will call when fireworks are used outside of the legal timeframe, such as after midnight.

All three police departments said they mostly issued warnings, not tickets.

From July 1 to 4, the Red River Regional Dispatch Center reported that dispatchers fielded 191 calls about fireworks and police reported spending 82 hours on them. There were 12 calls taking seven hours in the rest of Cass and Clay counties.

That might seem like a lot, but it’s actually a three-year low.

In 2016, there were 282 calls in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo that took 101 hours to resolve. In 2017, there were 327 calls, taking 120 hours to resolve. The average since 2011, the earliest data immediately available, has been 211 calls, taking 86 hours to resolve.

Sgt. Thad Stafford with the Moorhead Police Department said he doesn’t know of any specific trends. Schindeldecker in Fargo said it’s hard to speculate why individuals might call.

In West Fargo, there was a big dip in the number of calls during this period because, in 2014, the city legalized the use of fireworks between 8 a.m. and 11:59 p.m. on July 4 as well as 8 p.m. to 11:59 p.m. New Year’s Eve. From July 1 to 4 that year, the number of calls about fireworks dropped to 18. The year prior, there were 40 calls.

But in 2015, once residents had gotten used to the law, the number of complaints rose to 30. This year the total was 34.

Gustafson said some West Fargo residents called even during the legal fireworks period and police typically just swung by to see if anything was amiss.

The state of Minnesota has banned fireworks use since 1941, and Fargo has banned fireworks use since 1989.

Fargo lawmakers did talk about legalizing some fireworks in 2017 at the request of a fireworks seller, but at the request of police and fire departments, the ban remained. The firefighters worried fireworks could start fires and injure people. Police didn’t like the idea of legalizing some fireworks and banning others, making enforcement tricky on a day when police are usually pretty busy.

Schindeldecker said Thursday that fireworks calls are low priority and police will respond only if they’re not dealing with anything more serious.

Stafford said Moorhead police are usually more concerned with drunken driving, assaults and other consequences of heavy drinking. Nationwide, he said, police tend to see more traffic fatalities on Independence Day.