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.
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.