KPD Keizer police department

There’s been no shortage of airborne explosions in Keizer neighborhoods during the past month, but police officials and city leaders feel their hands are somewhat tied when it comes to solving the problem. 

The issue of fireworks complaints arose during a meeting of the Keizer City Council Monday, July 20. While there were few immediate solutions, Keizer Police Chief John Teague and Mayor Cathy Clark offered some paths forward. 

One issue with enforcing Oregon’s firework regulations is that using illegal fireworks is a Class B misdemeanor, which means the penalty is arrest. 

“By contrast, stealing something less than $100 in value is a Class C misdemeanor and results in a citation,” Teague said. “We are hesitant to arrest people for fireworks because they aren’t stealing anything. Most of the people who participate are otherwise law-abiding patriots.”

Grousing on social media about the impact of illegal fireworks usage does not rise to the level of an actual report when it comes to lower-level offenses such as illegal fireworks, added Mayor Cathy Clark. 

If Keizer police know of a particular person who continually flouts the who continually flouts the regulations, Teague said officers are willing to reach out to them in-person, and by letter, warning of the stringent penalty, but that will require neighbors willing to act as witnesses and reporting the individuals to non-emergency numbers. 

“If we do go out and see a group of people around a cul-de-sac using fireworks, it’s typically hard for us to determine which person is the one lighting them off,” Teague said. Arresting everyone at the scene of the incident isn’t a practical solution either. 

Despite the limitations, city officials suggested a potential path forward. 

Clark laid blame at a lack of resources and inability to stem the supply of illegal fireworks available across state lines. 

“Either make the fireworks legal and tax the heck out of them so we have resources for enforcement, or help us stem the flow from other states. I think the Legislature created this problem. They need to fix it, otherwise we will continue to have this conversation,” she said. 

Teague offered even more specific guidance. 

“If the Legislature changed the statue to a C misdemeanor and included ‘contributing’ to the use of illegal fireworks, we could go into the same cul-de-sac and cite everyone involved,” Teague said. 

Teague was not necessarily advocating for doing so, but implied it would be a more useful tool for law enforcement. 

Clark urged anyone interested in seeing an end to the problem to write to state legislators.