ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — A new ordinance in Rockford toughens the penalties for illegal use of fireworks within city limits.
With the Fourth Of July quickly approaching, Rockford often sees fireworks take to the skies in celebration.
But those explosives are illegal in Illinois and a change in city ordinance could mean a big fine for those taking part in the festivities.
In the past, responding officers had to see someone setting it off to give a ticket. But with the ordinance change, they can hold the property owner accountable even if a perpetrator isn’t found.
“They will try to identify the person first and ticket that person” said 8th Ward Alderman Karen Hoffman (D). “If everyone says ‘I don’t know’, then they will hold the homeowner or renter accountable.”
Each firework set off could come with its own fine. The cost of the fine ranges from $50 all the way to $750, which depends on the severity and number of offenses.
“You have to remember that fireworks in Illinois is illegal, some people like to forget that,” said Rockford Police Assistant Deputy Chief Mike Dalke. “If they’re going to fire fireworks, they’re going to have to pay a stiff fine.”
Many time residents say they’re not sure whether its fireworks or gunshots. Regardless, Rockford Police officers are dispatched to investigate.
“You maybe pulling [officers] away from a location,” said Dalke. “[Some] where they should be otherwise spending some time and solving and working on some serious issues.”
ShotSpotter is new technology used by Rockford Police to detect gunshots, but once in awhile, fireworks can cause a false alarm.
“Very seldom will we get where there’s some confusion on ShotSpotter between fireworks and gunshots,” said Dalke.
Hoffman had been working on the ordinance change for some time, she says those in her ward complain about fireworks every day. Many of them veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“It isn’t something that I just came up with,” explained Hoffman. “It was initiated by my residents and they’re the ones who fought for it. That’s why I was so passionate about it because it’s them.”
Rockford Fire says it will have fire investigators out patrolling on the Fourth Of July and the days before and after.