OPD combating illegal fireworks with new technology


A small explosive tank that looks like a child's toy and promises to smoke and spark when lit is just one of several dangerous and illegal fireworks found Tuesday being sold at a store in Chinatown. "This is a serious thing," Oakland Police Department Ofc. Johnna Watson said. Police say the use of fireworks and the practice of celebratory gunfire to mark the holiday is not only dangerous, but it is illegal and they want to put it to stop so that this 4th of July, the skies above Alameda County's largest city aren't once again filled with bursts of light, loud explosions, and smoke. "We have, all over the country, around Fourth of July, innocent individuals from small children to adults who are either seriously wounded or killed by celebratory gunfire," Watson said.

They're also being hurt by illegal fireworks. Last week, city officials issued a warning for anyone looking to light up the holiday. "If you are caught using fireworks or engaging in celebratory firing of a handgun, you will be prosecuted," they said. Watson admits that part of the problem is that small items like the ones ABC7 News found Tuesday aren't always seen as dangerous, but in the hands of a small child, or using it in a hot and dry area, could turn that celebration into a fire scene.

"We all want to celebrate together as a city, but we need to be safe when we're doing it," Watson said. Last year, officials seemed powerless to stop it, but this year, things have changed. "We have some new technology that's implemented," Watson told ABC7 News. Patrol units will be using their Shot Spotter equipment in a new way. Updated software will allow dispatchers to distinguish between gunfire and fireworks, giving them the ability to pinpoint the location and send a patrol unit in only minutes.

There will be no city-sponsored fireworks this year. The city is planning a family event at Jack London Square that starts at 11 a.m.

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