Anchorage police issued no citations for firework violations over July Fourth weekend

The department seeks compliance by educating rule breakers first
Missing pets frightened by fireworks are common over the Fourth of July.
Missing pets frightened by fireworks are common over the Fourth of July.(ktuu)
Published: Jul. 6, 2021 at 7:23 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Fireworks are illegal in the Municipality of Anchorage — to use, possess or sell. Despite that, Anchorage Police rarely cite people who use them.

According to the Anchorage Police Department, officers received more than 200 complaints between July 3 and 5 of this year, but issued zero citations.

“Our goal is compliance when we respond to those situations, compliance is what we are hoping to gain,” said APD Spokesperson Renee Oistad. “So a lot of times we can achieve that through a conversation with the people who are setting off the fireworks and that’s fantastic. Sometimes to get compliance that requires us to confiscate the fireworks. Sometimes compliance requires us to issue a citation.”

But citations or the accompanying fine of up to $300 are unusual. According to Oistad, the department has only issued three citations for fireworks in the last three years, and none of them were over the Fourth of July weekend.

That’s a frustration for some who say the law isn’t being properly enforced. Mark Robokoff, who owns Anchorage pet store AK Bark, is one of them.

“The law exists and people need to follow it,” Robokoff said, citing the number of pets that are terrified of fireworks. “The police’s job is to enforce that law. And if there is no penalty for breaking that law people are going to keep doing it and dogs and people are going to continue to suffer.”

Anchorage Animal Control reported an unusually large number of dogs that were turned in Monday: 13 in a single day. By Tuesday afternoon, nine of them had gone home to their families, according to Public Information Coordinator Laura Holman. Most, she said, had been spooked by fireworks.

APD’s Oistad said she understands that some could feel frustrated by the situation, but said overall, APD’s approach is working.

“Again, compliance is the goal,” she said. “So if we can gain compliance with a conversation then that is the route we would choose to take. If we are unable to achieve that we can go higher up on the scale, but if we can talk to people and educate them and they choose to change their behavior based on that conversation, then we’ve achieved our goal.”

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