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Fireworks bylaw enforcement questioned after crazy Halloween night in Delta, B.C.

Click to play video: 'Damage tallied from Halloween fireworks'
Damage tallied from Halloween fireworks
Police are investigating a number of fireworks-related incidents across metro Vancouver that left several people, including youths and first responders injured. Kamil Karamali now with a look at how an uneven patchwork of bylaws across the region could be contributing to the problem – Nov 2, 2022

Despite bylaws and bans on the use of fireworks in the Lower Mainland, many neighbourhoods were lit up on Halloween night.

A scary scene in Delta, B.C., has officials questioning local permit systems and bylaw enforcement.

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According to police, hundreds of youths gathered at South Delta Secondary School and Dennison Park.

Police said officers counted more than 400 youths at one point.

“At times, the group developed a crowd mentality where individual levels of responsibility evaporated,” police said in a media release Tuesday.

“Fireworks were deliberately fired at youth and bystanders, including first responders who were intentionally targeted. Sprinkler heads were damaged on the Dennison Park football field.”

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Delta police reported several assaults, including incidents where fireworks were used as weapons, and said firefighters had numerous fires to extinguish.

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Delta’s mayor told Global News on Wednesday the crowds of youth out on Halloween night were serious cause for concern.

“(It’s) chaos. You are seeing people intentionally trying to hurt other people,” said George Harvie.

“This was just totally out of the norm. As a mayor, I am very disappointed. We need to look at how we prevent this from happening again.”

Harvie said the local municipality needs to get into local high schools and inform students of firework safety and risks.

“There is something wrong and needs to be fixed,” Harvie said. “We need to inspect the permit system because it is not working right now.”

Harvie said Delta will be having a debriefing regarding Halloween night and what changes could be made to prevent incidents from happening again.

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Delta police said officers were at the scene for more than five hours, however, when officers tried to intervene, they too became targets for those lighting fireworks.

“There were several youths that were firing fireworks at other youths, bystanders and officers,” said Delta police Insp. James Sandberg.

Two officers were injured by fireworks.

When asked about enforcement of firework bylaws, or lack thereof, Sandberg said it’s a hard infraction to prove.

“Delta has bylaws in place that restrict the sale of fireworks and the possession of fireworks. The restriction on sales is easier to administer,” he said.

“The effects of our bylaws are evident in what we saw. The spirit of the bylaw is in the right direction but it’s difficult to enforce.”

Click to play video: 'An Oliver grass fire believed to be started by fireworks'
An Oliver grass fire believed to be started by fireworks

With viral videos from Delta trending on social media, a B.C. lawyer offered thoughts on why it seems like police are not enforcing bylaws regarding fireworks.

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“Legally, police are empowered to enforce city bylaws but unfortunately it really comes down to a resourcing issue,” said Kyla Lee, an Acumen Law Corporation lawyer in Vancouver.

“They don’t have the resources to be attending every fireworks call. When fireworks are going off, there is usually a 10- to 15-minute delay between when the call is made and when the officers eventually get there.”

Lee said by the time officers arrive at the complaint, typically those responsible are long gone.

“When (officers) do get there, the ones that were setting off the fireworks are usually gone,” Lee said. “Police resources end up getting tied up with investigations that really end up going nowhere.”

Another hurdle, Lee says, is that those who are choosing to use fireworks are encouraged by the lack of enforcement.

“There is not much of an incentive to follow the law when they know the law isn’t being enforced,” Lee told Global News Wednesday.

“It’s very difficult to prove who set off the fireworks and who was in violation of the bylaw as opposed to who was just standing around and encouraging it but not actually violating the law.”

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