A Grand Junction family is upset with local law enforcement, saying that their neighbors got away with a crime over the holiday weekend. Now they are demanding answers.
As loud booms and spectacular sights filled the skies of Grand Junction on the Fourth of July, smaller fireworks exploded just under the city's display.
"It was pretty mellow, I think, for a suburban area," Lindsey Macintire said of her neighborhood.
Macintire says only a few homes were setting off the illegal fireworks, littering her street with what is left over. Grand Junction Police officers and Mesa County Sheriff's deputies cracked down on those firecrackers all weekend long, but managed to avoid writing a single ticket for people breaking the law.
"If they're being safe, they're being responsible, it's the Fourth of July," Heather Benjamin with the sheriff's office said. "We're not going to ruin that for them."
A few doors down from Macintire lives Jim and his family. He did not want to give his last name because of a situation he had with his neighbors on Friday. "They were shooting off illegal fireworks. So, I called the sheriff's office. And, after they arrived, the first thing they said was, 'You called us for a fireworks complaint?'"
Jim was shocked. "It's illegal, it's unsafe. I was at a loss."
He says the deputies finally ended up helping him by warning his neighbors to stop. But, where they fell short, he said, was when they chose not to write the neighbors a ticket. "So, now we're just going to pick and choose what laws we're going to enforce," Jim asked.
But, the sheriff's office says there's an easy explanation for that. "[Deputies] have discretion to write tickets for speeding just like they do for anything," Benjamin said. "If we go and we address the issue and it's resolved to our satisfaction, we're going to move on to the next call."
Jim isn't so sure. He says the deputies told him they were not writing tickets because they were understaffed. The sheriff's office refutes that.
But, there is more to this story. Neighbors like Jim don't understand how satisfied the sheriff's office could have been.
Jim says that a vacant 40 acre lot sitting right behind the neighborhood catches fire every Independence Day and that a warning against these illegal fireworks just doesn't cut it.
"All you're doing is enabling them. If that field goes up, I could lose my house along with some of my neighbors," he said. "But they don't write the tickets, so everyone does it."
Neighbors like Macintire understand the importance of warnings and say it would be silly to write tickets if everything is relatively safe. "I think the warnings work. And personally, I feel that an officers presence is the best thing."
After deputies left his neighborhood last Friday night, Jim says the people who were warned started firing those illegal fireworks again.
Just for reference, in the state of Colorado, it is illegal to light fireworks that explode and/or leave the ground. In Mesa County, violations are considered a class three misdemeanor punishable by up to a $750 fine and six months in jail.
No fires were reported in the area around the neighborhood directly linked to fireworks.