CHICAGO (CBS) — Residents around the Chicago area are fed up with fireworks, weeks ahead of the 4th of July holiday.
From the city to the suburbs, illegal fireworks have been going off in backyards.
On Tuesday night, neighbors were sounding off – telling CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov how they plan to put a stop to it.
School and church parking lots have long been the sites of illegal firework gatherings. A few days year don’t bother residents, but this year, their complaint calls are off the charts.
Tuesday, June 23 is 11 days ahead of Independence Day. But Tuesday, June 23 was also already well beyond the point where thousands of people had had it with booms and bangs of fireworks.
“They are random and unpredictable,” said Julie Hart.
“It’s every day. It’s incessant. It’s at all hours,” said Patrick Hughes.
Hughes lives in Roscoe Village. He said the all-hour explosions began weeks ago.
“These aren’t firecrackers or kids shooting M-80s,” Hughes said. “They are commercial fireworks.”
Hart, a Bowmanville resident, agrees. And the fireworks terrify her dog, Teddy, who survived Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
Hart and Hughes have each contacted their aldermen. Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38th) said he is getting lots of calls too.
“The people on the Northwest Side are out of control,” Sposato said.
But the complaints are citywide. According to records, between Jan. 1 and June 21 of this year, there have been 7,042 firework disturbance calls to 911. That is compared to just 842 calls in the same time period last year.
It amounts to a 700 percent increase.
“The police, I think, try, but there are too many calls, and they’re not there in real time at the moment the fireworks are going off, so I don’t fault them,” Hart said.
The head of the American Pyrotechnics Association blames the fireworks surge on the coronavirus pandemic – and people looking for something to do.
“We’re hearing from retailers that as compared to the same time period last year, sales are up 200 to 300 percent,” said Julie Eckman, executive director of the organization.
Sposato said he is getting ready to ride his ward with police, like he does every year, to try and stop the fireworks offenders.
“We tell them, ‘Not here, hit the road,’ and they usually hit the road, or if we see them doing it, we break it up. Sometimes we take their stuff,” he said.
Sposato said officers sometimes write citations for the illegal fireworks.
Meanwhile, others say it is more than a disturbance for people who suffer from things like post-traumatic stress disorder and who have small children, not to mention the fact that fireworks are also mistaken for gunshots.