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Sioux City Council Could Change Fireworks Ordinance

Sioux City police responded to 151 fireworks-related complaints in July, a 104 percent increase from July last year.

The Sioux City Council is paving the way for a possible ban on fireworks while acknowledging that enforcement would be difficult.

After fireworks-related complaints made to local police soared in July and people spoke during recent city council meetings about how loud the fireworks were and how they boomed and crackled in the city on days when they’re prohibited, the city council is considering changing the ordinance.

Mayor Pro Tem Dan Moore during Monday's council meeeting said even when he moved to Sioux City more than 40 years ago, when the sale of fireworks was illegal in Iowa, he was “surprised” by how many fireworks were still being used in Sioux City on the Fourth of July.

“It’s a continual problem,” Moore said. “And I think the police department and the fire department would be concerned about that year in and year out.”

Moore gave a presentation to the council on possible options: Ban the use of fireworks altogether in the city, ban certain types of consumer fireworks and limit the use and hours that fireworks can be discharged or keep things as they are.

“Enforcement will be a challenge,” Moore said, on a complete ban. “If we go that route, if there’s support for a complete ban, we would want to consider lobbying the state legislators to ban the sale of fireworks.”

It’s a continual problem.
Mayor Pro Tem Dan Moore

Fireworks were banned in Iowa in 1938, but Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad signed a bill into law in 2017 legalizing their sales. Since then, Iowa cities have been allowed to set their own rules on how they’re used.

Under Sioux City’s ordinance, people can discharge fireworks on their private property from 1 p.m.-11 p.m. on July 3 and 4, 1 p.m. to midnight on Dec. 31 and midnight to 12:30 a.m. on Jan. 1. Fines for violating the ordinance range from $250 to $500.

The Sioux City Police Department issued few citations while the number of complaints they responded to skyrocketed in July. Last month, police responded to 151 complaints and issued six violations related to fireworks. In June, police responded to 74 complaints and wrote three violations. The numbers are higher than 2019's: Police responded to 74 complaints and issued one violation in July. In June, they responded to 54 complaints and wrote two violations.

Sioux City Community Policing Sgt. Jeremy McClure said in a Monday interview with IPR, one of the difficulties with enforcing the fireworks ordinance is that police have to prioritize the calls that come in related to fireworks and other policing business.

“And we still have to answer emergency calls for service and other investigations such as assaults and thefts,” McClure said. “So sometimes the fireworks complaints have to hold a few minutes and by the time the officers arrive on scene, they may be done discharging the fireworks.”

McClure said the police department speculates the increase in complaints in the weeks before and after the Fourth of July compared to last year is related to the coronavirus pandemic, which has kept people isolated at home.

“A lot of people are unable to travel or go to different events that have been canceled because of it,” McClure said, “and due to that we suspect that for many people, lighting off fireworks has been one of the more popular forms of entertainment since a lot of the other things they’d been doing have been canceled.”

Sometimes the fireworks complaints have to hold a few minutes and by the time the officers arrive on scene, they may be done discharging the fireworks.
Sgt. Jeremy McClure

With how difficult it is to enforce the current ordinance, council members talked about looking into how cities that have bans on fireworks – like Des Moines – enforce them. Rande Giles, who has complained to the council about fireworks in recent weeks and requested a ban, said she likes that idea.

“But I just hope that doesn’t deter us from the bigger picture and that is by doing some type of ordinance around the fireworks and making it better than it is now,” Giles said.

Mayor Pro Tem Moore said they could have a proposal for what to do about the fireworks ordinance in at least two to three weeks.