Stopping Fireworks Will Take More than Enforcement

Fireworks explosions are a frequent occurrence at the Palisades Rec Center.

This box of explosives were set off at the corner of Radcliffe and Bowdoin Streets.

By CHAZ PLAGER

Let’s be frank— teenagers do stupid things. It’s a fact of life.

Usually these things are relatively harmless, like asking out the cashier at Taco Bell, trying to finish an essay four hours before the deadline, or the Cinnamon Challenge (eating a spoonful of ground cinnamon without drinking anything).

However, greater privilege also gives teens access to more opportunities for risky behavior. Take the recent string of illegal fireworks tearing up the Palisades-Malibu area, as well as the peace and quiet within.

Now, “illegal fireworks” in this context refers to either fireworks too dangerous for commercial or recreational use (e.g. the Cherry Bomb), or fireworks that require a permit and a specified venue to fire off (like the fireworks fired during the 4th of July).

It is not as though you have to jump through hoops to obtain the former— there are several online stores where you can simply buy a Cherry Bomb as easily as you would buy some toothpaste.

“Most fireworks are brought in from other counties or even states,” said Pacific Palisades Senior Lead Officer Brian Espin. “Fireworks are illegal in most of Los Angeles County unless they are labeled ‘safe and sane.’”

The latter takes much more work, but can be stolen, or procured with a false ID. But what’s the danger? It’s just loud and annoying, right?

On June 20th, 2023, a group of teens set off fireworks in the Palisades Rec Center. One of the teens stood too close to the explosion and suffered severe, permanent burns. His friends left him to suffer as the police arrived.

The teen’s name was never revealed, but it is likely he will bear permanent scars for the rest of his life as a reminder.

The Cherry Bomb is classified as an explosive by the federal government due to its destructive nature, capable of obliterating body parts or even killing particularly unlucky users.

Fireworks are also, as the name implies, a massive fire hazard. Pacific Palisades is not an easy town to evacuate, and the entire area is located in the Very High Fire Severity Zone.

Every firework set off poses a danger to every one of the nearly 30,000 residents. Worse still, the LAPD seems to be lacking the resources.

One disgruntled resident posted, “They reported the fireworks that night beginning very early around 7 p.m. and no one came (the kid was severely injured around 10 p.m.). There is no gate at the park entrance, no patrol, no one on staff after 8 pm, a major “attractive nuisance” letting kids party there all night… they must be waiting for someone to be killed before they act?”

Now, I personally can’t understand why someone would do this. My perspective won’t do much good. So, I asked a Pali teen who does, in fact, set off fireworks for fun.
Name censored at the interviewee’s request.

CTN: So, why exactly is this fun to you?
Teen: (Laughing) What? What kind of guy doesn’t like explosions? It’s awesome. One time, my buddy got too close to the firework, and it set him on fire. We videoed him rolling around and screaming. It’s great.
Is he okay?
Oh yeah, of course. We wouldn’t let him die or anything.
Okay, but why set it off in public areas?
Keeps the property value down.
Are you aware of the risks of setting off fireworks?
Oh my God. “Erm, don’t you know this really badass thing is super dangerous?” Of course I do! That’s why it’s sick. You know, like the Spartans had tests of courage and stuff.
You see yourself as modern-day Spartans?
What? Uh… Yeah, you know what? Totally, dude. We’re the new age Spartans. No pussy shit here. We ride or die like real men.
Do you have anything you’d like to say to the adults who are “sick of your antics”?
What’re you mad about? You’re rich. “Waah, the property value!” Shut up. Spend a night in the hood, see how good you got it. Over there, you know it’s gunshots, not fireworks. Try it. Put some real hair on your chest.

The teens setting off the fireworks see themselves as modern-day Spartans.

Despite the growing number of incidents, the LAPD has not sent out more officers to curb the problem.

Resident Krishna Thangavelu, Ph.D. suggested a solution: “All residents [should] be advised to call a faster response agency. LAPD needs to tell us who that new agency is. We could consider LAFD (who typically refuses any enforcement responsibilities) or Gates Security or another security company that LAPD deputizes to arrest suspects until LAPD can book them.”

Officer Espin replied: “LAPD does not secure or have involvement in contracts with security companies. The City itself goes out for bids regarding contracts for buildings and other sites where they are looking for security services.”

Speaking as a student, I believe it would be helpful for Palisades Charter High School and Paul Revere Middle School to have PSA presentations on the dangers of fireworks. Real change starts at the roots, and I think it’s probably better that we attempt to stop the problem at the source rather than improving the damage control after it already happens. As a community, we can keep teens from hurting themselves.

 

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6 Responses to Stopping Fireworks Will Take More than Enforcement

  1. bev lowe says:

    Great article. I’m very impressed by how articulate Chaz is.

  2. Doug Day says:

    Secession.

  3. Sarah says:

    I have no idea who this idiot that you (excellently) interviewed is, but my guess is that he’s a Westside kid trying to be gangsta. He is embarrassing himself and doesn’t even know it. Pathetic.

  4. Ruth W.Mills says:

    It’s chilling how entitled, self-centered, and totally lacking in empathy the interviewee is. As a retired high school teacher, I certainly encountered students with such traits, but this is extreme—and extremely dangerous (which is clearly a big part of the appeal). I don’t automatically blame the parents, but I can’t help wondering what shaped this kid’s (lack of) values, and why he is out late, apparently without his parents’ awareness of where he is or what he’s doing. Parents need to be involved, which does not mean hovering, but it’s a 24/7 responsibility!

  5. Krishna Thangavelu says:

    Really excellent investigative reporting Chaz that provides us an insight into the psychology of the youth setting off fireworks in our extremely high fire severity town. Keep up the good work!

    We should never have to choose between prevention and enforcement. Both are necessary. I like your ideas. Only a tiny number of the students in those schools are repeat offenders, most are not tempted to committ criminal acts. I like the idea of building awareness for all, in schools, congregations, and the community at large which your excellent article is doing.

    Another prevention plan is having active patrol in our beaches and parks on evenigs and weekends. This is what LAPD is unable to provide. They are also unable to provide a quick response to incidents. And this is why I think we need to keep pushing for an agency which will answer and respond to 911 calls in urgent scenarios.

  6. CC Fischer says:

    It is not that these boys are horrible. They are sad and confused as to what their identity should be. With their broccoli haircuts, five thousand dollar electric bikes and cringe adaptation of gangster swagger, they are far from Spartans. The horrible people are their parents who just shrug every awfulness of their progeny. It is like they birthed children as lifestyle accoutrements and not responsibilities. When you believe teachers, policeman, and librarians are there to teach and be responsible for your kids, you set them up for a lifetime of whining mediocrity.

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