‘It’s hard to find an answer’: Northwest side residents, alderman try to stave off illegal July 4th fireworks displays


CHICAGO (CBS) — A viewer reached out to CBS 2, frustrated about illegal fireworks in her northwest side neighborhood.

She said she’s pestered police, the Chicago Park District and her alderman with no results since last summer.

Now, almost a year later, she’s asking for action again ahead of the July 4th holiday. Morning Insider Lauren Victory takes us inside her crusade.

In tiny Green Briar Park on the northwest side of Chicago, you’ll finds lots of tiny feet.

“I love that it’s a place that the kids hang out,” said Madeline Katan who also gets squeamish about the squeals because she’s worried about everyone’s safety.

“I saw kids sitting on these benches 20 feet, 50 feet from fireworks being launched,” she said, recalling what she said was a dangerous July 4, 2021 in her park.

Illegally launched fireworks are a problem across Chicago, every July 4th. Often, they’re shot off close to homes and trees.

“The dogs in the neighborhood are terrified,” said Katan’s neighbor, Teddy Bofman. Bofman’s dog Cinnamon gets scared by the noise over and over.

“For weeks before July 4, for weeks after July 4 and particularly on July 4, there are fireworks going off,” said Bofman.

Then there’s the litter left behind. Katan snapped photos of it spewed across the baseball diamond and still burning underneath a tree last summer.

She called 911 twice during illegal displays.

“The policeman actually suggested that I move out to the suburbs. I mean that’s not an answer,” Katan said.

So what is the answer? We took Katan’s concerns to her alderman, Andre Vasquez (40th.)

“Well, I mean the challenge is, it’s hard to find an answer, right?” said Vasquez who said he’s asked police about the issue and has been told that both officers and Chicago Park District employees are spread too thin to curb illegal fireworks.

Vasquez’s office is looking at other ways to deter amateurs including giving them the thrill of fireworks through a sanctioned, professionally-run July 4th display in his ward.

“For something like that, what we had looked at was an estimate of raising $65,000,” said Vasquez.

That money won’t be ready by this July 4th, which doesn’t make Katan happy.

“I’ve been asking for help for a year. We should’ve been way ahead of this year’s fireworks,” said Katan who shared emails from September 2021 between her and the alderman’s aides about the issue.

Katan is volunteering to head up a steering committee on the issue. Vasquez tells CBS 2 he welcomes the help.

Should people call 911 if they witness someone shooting off a firework?

The Chicago Police Department never responded to us about that simple question.

The Chicago Park District tells CBS 2 that it will turn on lights at ballfields in an effort to deter illegal fireworks. Here is the full statement:

The Chicago Park District strictly prohibits the use of all explosive devices, including but not limited to, rockets, crackers, torpedoes and other fireworks on Park District property.  We urge the public to help keep park patrons and employees safe and to protect our parks from damage by refraining from using fireworks and other explosive devices in our parks.

Park District Security monitors, reports and responds to any use of fireworks on park property and works closely with the Chicago Police Department to ensure this policy is enforced.

To deter the use of fireworks in our parks,  the Park District will activate ballfield lighting, especially around artificial turf fields, trees and natural areas where this activity most likely occurs and can cause significant damage.

The Park District encourages park visitors to help keep our parks clean and enjoyable by properly disposing their trash in the designated waste receptacles. During the Summer months, when our parks are most heavily used, the District collects trash from waste receptacles and recycling cans seven days a week at our busiest parks, and six days a week at all other parks, including the 4th of July weekend.

In addition, we urge patrons to dispose hot coals in the red cans located in the parks and not at the base of trees, which is harmful to trees, wildlife and children that may be playing nearby. 

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