Neighborhood, police, stakeholders hope proactive approach can blunt fireworks mayhem


JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Residents, police and other partners know they probably face long odds preventing fireworks “wars” that have plagued Johnson City’s West Davis Park neighborhood for years around the Independence Day holiday.

That isn’t stopping them from trying, though.

Several neighbors, police chief Karl Turner and representatives from the local NAACP and the New Generation Freedom Fighters brainstormed at Carver Recreation Center Tuesday.

Would-be participants in activities that in the past have resulted in burned cars, fireworks thrown under police vehicles and even a home catching fire should take note, those meeting said.

Not only are they putting themselves and others in physical danger and likely terrorizing pets and folks with PTSD or other sensory issues — they’re risking criminal charges if caught violating the law and suspension from school sports for being involved at all.

A scene from 2018 in the West Davis Park neighborhood.

Anyone with information to help Johnson City Police Department identify illegal firework activity:

Text the code 423/JCPD and your tip to 847411.

Joint pamphlet of JCPD/Johnson City-Washington County NAACP and New Generation Freedom Fighters.

“I took it upon myself to write a letter on behalf of West Davis Park two years ago to the coaches, the principals, director of schools, and they actually came to one of our meetings,” resident Deborah Grey said. “They have resource officers that work for the school that know these kids, so that helps.”

So does heavy police presence. But Turner and others acknowledged that quite a few of the dozens of young people who’ve descended on the area for years now don’t even live in Johnson City.

“Our main goal is not to have any injuries to anyone or any property damage,” Turner said. “We’re trying to do everything we can to be proactive on the front end and try to reduce the number of people that are up there shooting fireworks — or eliminate it completely would be the ultimate goal, but we have to be realistic as well.”

Local NAACP President Tavia Sillmon and New Generation Freedom Fighters leader Katelyn Yarbrough don’t live in the neighborhood but they were on hand.

Turner said he’d reached out to them hoping they’d share police pamphlets in their spheres of influence that outline the dangers of fireworks and the consequences people could face.

“It’s different when the police come and hand you out a pamphlet and when they come and hand out a pamphlet,” Turner said. “Their voice may mean more — it may carry more weight than my voice as far as trying to get people to obey the ordinance.”

That ordinance prohibits any fireworks, other than sparklers, in the city limits. The pamphlet details the danger of fireworks, school-related disciplinary measures, and the more serious charges people can face if caught firing fireworks at a person or property.

Neighborhood association officer Barry Drummond said residents must also come out and let people know West Davis is not the place for their shenanigans.

“We have to come out of our houses,” Drummond said. “Get to know your neighbors, let people that are coming into our community from other communities know that, ‘hey, we’re out here. This is our community, we want our community to be safe.’

“And ask them ‘please don’t come into our community and shoot fireworks, it’s illegal.’ We don’t want somebody’s house burned down we don’t want somebody’s property damaged — we want it to be safe.”

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