Education and enforcement lead to decrease in fireworks complaints

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WINNEBAGO COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - Many people enjoy professional fireworks shows during the 4th of July, but they also hear and see people setting off illegal fireworks of their own this time of year. A new initiative to crack down on those violators, by Winnebago County law enforcement agencies, appears to have been a success.

Leading up to the Fourth of July, consumer fireworks are readily available. But, just because you can buy fireworks doesn't mean you can set them off as communities have adopted ordinances making anything the leaves the ground or explodes illegal. An initiative by law enforcement agencies in Winnebago County worked to clarify that confusion this Fourth of July season as they responded to complaints.

According to John Wallschlaeger with the Menasha Police Department, "Our officers tried to specifically identify the origin of the fireworks and then document, not only did they indicate who that person was, but that they gave them a brochure."

The brochure was a tangible verbal warning, an education for people explaining what they were doing was illegal and it wouldn't be tolerated, if additional complaints were received.

"Most people will commit a crime, or in this case an ordinance violation, if they think they can get away with it. Once they've been identified and they realize they can't get away with it, that's a lot less likely that they'll try to do it again," adds Wallschlaeger.

The education and initiative proved to be fruitful as the number of fireworks complaints officers responded to dropped drastically. From June First to July 10th of this year versus the same timeframe last year, officers in Neenah, Menasha, and Fox Crossing responded to fewer fireworks complaints. The decreases ranged from 35 to more than 60% less, a surprise to those who initiated the change in education and enforcement.

Wallschlaeger adds, "We invested a few extra minutes to lay some groundwork to deterring it in the future."