The days around Independence Day tend to be busy for most people – and that holds true for the Idaho Falls Police Department. Increased call load, large public events, and fireworks complaints make the days surrounding the 4th of July some of the busiest days of the year.
Summer months naturally tend to be busier for the department. As the weather warms up more people are out and about, including criminals. Our roads are also busier which means an increase in traffic accidents and increased need for traffic enforcement. During the week surrounding the 4th of July in 2018, IFPD responded to 1408 calls for service. That’s about a 28 percent increase in call volume compared to weeks in the colder months of the year. So far, IFPD has responded to 464 calls for service since Sunday, June 31st putting the department on track to surpass 2018 calls numbers. The department has increased staffing numbers for the days surrounding the 4th of July to best address the increase in calls-for-service.
One of our city’s proud traditions is the 4th of July Parade, organized by the Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce. During the afternoon, thousands of people gather at Snake River Landing for the Mountain View Hospital Riverfest. Later in the evening, Idaho Falls is home to one of the largest Independence Day celebrations in the Midwest, courtesy of the Melaleuca Freedom Celebration. On the 4th of July, the population of Idaho Falls more than triples as people from all over come to experience these events.
In order to support public safety needs of the city for the day’s activities, every single Idaho Falls Police Officer will be working on the 4th of July. In addition to addressing normal calls throughout the city, Idaho Falls Police Officers will be working at the parade, at Riverfest and the Melaleuca Freedom Celebration, and to direct traffic following the event. The Idaho State Police and Bonneville County Sherriff’s Office also increase their presence in the Idaho Falls area for these events.
The Idaho Falls/Bonneville County Dispatch Center will also have additional staff working to address the large call volume they receive throughout the week and to support communication and dispatch needs for the first responders working on July 4th. In the days surrounding the 4th of July, the Idaho Falls/Bonneville County Dispatch Center receives a large number of calls concerning fireworks in the city limits.
Fireworks are a popular and fun display of patriotism. While certain fireworks are legal in city limits between June 23 and July 5, fireworks should always be handled with safety and courtesy for individuals and property in mind.
The Idaho Falls Police Department and Idaho Falls/Bonneville County Dispatch Center make every effort to appropriately address every call-for-service that is made to 911 or to the non-emergency line (208)529-1200. However, due to large call volumes and other critical public safety responsibilities, there may be times when officers may not be able to immediately respond to a less urgent call-for-service, such as a noise complaint* due to fireworks. (*A fireworks call that includes a safety concern would not be considered a noise complaint.)
In these cases, the Emergency Communications Dispatcher will advise the caller of the estimated time before an officer is expected to be able to respond to that call for service. Dispatch will hold the call-for-service and will dispatch an officer as soon as one is available. If an officer is not available to respond within two hours due to other urgent calls-for-service, and no further calls have been received indicating that the fireworks have continued, that call-for-service will be closed.
In order to issue a citation or take a police action, officers have to witness the individual possessing or lighting the fireworks or the caller must be willing to sign a citation for disturbing the peace. Most of the time callers want to remain anonymous and are not willing to sign the citation. Oftentimes, even if an officer is immediately available when the call comes in the activity is not happening when officers arrive even just minutes later.
In order to try to better address these calls, the Idaho Falls Police Department will have an additional two-person team dedicated to responding to fireworks complaints on July 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 6th during the evening hours. These officers will be dedicated to responding to fireworks complaints throughout the city. Officers regularly on duty will assist with those calls for service as much as they are able around other calls for service and public safety responsibilities.
The Idaho Falls Police Department would like to encourage anyone using fireworks this year to be courteous to their neighbors and to make safety the first priority. Fireworks are a fun way to celebrate this time of year, but can also cause significant harm to people and property if not handled cautiously. Community members are asked to please call dispatch if they witness unsafe or illegal use of fireworks.
As a reminder, illegal and banned fireworks include, but are not limited to, firecrackers, cannon crackers, blank cartridges, skyrockets, rockets, roman candles, chasers, whistles, all torpedoes that explode by means of friction and toy cannons. Possession of these types of fireworks is illegal and law enforcement and/or fire officials may seize them.