Police handed out ticket after ticket and seized illegal fireworks from areas up and down the Central Coast Monday night. Multiple stations put to use drone systems which helped them collect the evidence needed to issue citations.
Areas like Grover Beach, Guadalupe and Santa Maria all utilized drones to keep the use of illegal pyrotechnics at bay. Police say just by word of mouth, the knowledge of drone activity deterred many people from lighting the match on unauthorized fireworks.
"From my estimation right now, we had about nine citations, which is pretty good for us, but we had well over 10 people look up, saw the drone and did not do it," explained Guadalupe Police Chief Michael Cash.
When it comes to fireworks, in order to be able to issue a citation, police have to catch someone in the act. In Guadalupe, officers say 99% of incidents that were caught were thanks to the drone.
Grover Beach Police saw a similar scene this 4th of July holiday compared to years past. They say it was tamer, attributing that to the looming presence of the drone. Still, the drone caught a lot of action and was in the air for most of the night due to activity.
"We did send our drone on 31 of those fireworks calls and it was very helpful in determining who was setting off those fireworks," said Commander Jim Munro, Grover Beach Police Department.
From those 31 calls, Grover Beach Police were able to collect enough evidence to issue four citations. Both agencies call this a community effort — from the drone to extra patrols to community tips, law enforcement had a leg up this year.
"I got a lot of feedback from citizens who said they at least heard it. If they couldn’t see it, everyone knew it was something that was up there and that was a deterrent also," Chief Cash said.
As the holiday night came to a close, it's not the citations police are happy with but the lack of that they say made it a winning night.
Both Grover Beach and Guadalupe Police Departments say that they had huge success with their drones and it will become a gadget they will implement throughout the year to widen their enforcement area, not just for 4th of July fireworks enforcement.
All illegal activity that was caught resulted in the seizure of those illegal fireworks. Those were sent to the Fire Marshall to be destroyed and they will eventually weigh the confiscated explosives to get a better idea of how many items were rounded up and taken off the streets.
The City of Santa Maria also used a drone this year to track illegal fireworks. Officials there say results of the enforcement effort will be available in about two weeks.
The aircraft flew on Saturday, July 2 but was grounded on July 4 because of heavy fog.
Santa Maria Police conducted fireworks enforcement patrols over four days and will do so again Tuesday night. City officials say officers confiscated a large number of illegal fireworks on the night of June 30 and made an arrest.