Fireworks complaints are soaring. LAPD has cited only one person

The nightly cacophony of fireworks explosions in Los Angeles popped earlier and louder this year, sparking bemusement and frustration across the city. Complaints to the LAPD skyrocketed.

Yet officers cited only one person this year through June 23. The department, which says it defers to its officers' discretion on public safety and favors education over enforcement, has become less reliant on tickets or arrests for fireworks use, according to a Times analysis of a decade of dispatch logs and booking reports.

Annual complaints to LAPD about fireworks

Source: Los Angeles Police Department
Last updated: June 27

Fireworks citations or arrests by LAPD

An explosion of complaints

The department typically receives scores of fireworks complaints each month, with a barrage arriving in the weeks before July 4. Amid the coronavirus disruption, however, that expected outpouring of calls came earlier — and was much larger — than previous years, the data show.

“It seems like fireworks are exploding in every corner of our city,” said City Atty. Mike Feuer, who recently pleaded with residents to stop and sent warning letters to companies regarding potential illegal sales. “Nobody knows why this year is so bad.”

The department received a brief respite in calls during the demonstrations against police brutality in late May and early June. But they've since shot up again to levels that are unprecedented over the last decade, well surpassing what would be expected.

Cumulative fireworks calls in 2020 over previous years

Source: Los Angeles Police Department
Last updated: June 27

Some areas complained more

The department logs all calls by category in each of its 1,100 reporting areas, allowing for a granular view of the fireworks complaints. The rate of calls has been highest in areas within its Mission and Foothill divisions, which include neighborhoods such as Pacoima, Mission Hills, Sylmar, Lake View Terrace and Sunland.

One small reporting area in Pacoima, between Foothill and Glenoaks boulevards near Hansen Dam, generated the most complaints: 23. That was roughly 5% of all of the calls to the Los Angeles Police Department from that area.

The rate was also comparatively high in the Harbor Division to the south, where the San Pedro and Harbor City neighborhoods saw a higher proportion of fireworks complaints than in other areas of the city.

Fireworks complaint rate per 1,000 calls in 2020

Rate/1,000 calls
0-5 calls
Source: Los Angeles Police Department
Last updated: June 27

The highest rates of increase in fireworks complaints came from the LAPD's Hollywood, Olympic and West Valley divisions, where calls surged this year far above typical levels. The Pacific Division, which encompasses Del Rey, Venice and Mar Vista, also saw a significant increase this year in complaints.

Also high on the list of areas with high rates of fireworks-related calls were places in the Highland Park and Montecito Heights neighborhoods.

The West Los Angeles Division, which encompasses the neighborhoods west of Beverly Hills to Pacific Palisades, received fewer complaints. The Central Division, which includes downtown, was also comparatively quiet.

Complaints more than doubled in all but one division, however, the logs show:

Source: Los Angeles Police Department
Last updated: June 27

A 'quality of life' issue

Jorge Chavez, 44, who has lived in the University Park area west of downtown all his life, said the fireworks have been getting louder and more frequent for years. “It’s too many fireworks, and they are sounding louder and louder each year,” he said. “It’s like huge firecrackers. Boom! It’s like cherry bombs. All the car alarms go off.”

Chavez said he would like to see the LAPD do more to quell the explosions, which he blames for spooking the family's Yorkshire terrier mix, Choco, who recently ran away.

“They're not capturing the people. They aren't doing much,” he said. “I wish they would just pursue who is doing all the firework popping.”

In a written statement, the LAPD said fireworks noise is a "quality of life" issue that it's trying to reduce through education. It has discouraged the use of fireworks and urges residents not to use 911 to report them, directing Angelenos to an online portal. This year it has also touted officers' efforts to confiscate fireworks, posting pictures of the more than 6,200 pounds its bomb squad has collected.

"Unfortunately, fireworks are readily available to the general public in areas adjacent to the City of Los Angeles," the statement said. "The LAPD realizes that the vast majority of people using 'safe and sane fireworks' are using them responsibly and in a celebratory manner. This is not to discount the inherent dangers, but as peace officers we realize that discretion is sometimes in the best interest of both the community and the LAPD."