Sheriff makes his New Year’s plans, promises to crack down on fireworks in Deltona

Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood

Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood

BEACON PHOTO/AL EVERSON

Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood promises he will celebrate New Year’s Eve again this year by hitting the streets with those under his command, starting in the county’s biggest city.

Just as Chitwood ended 2016, he promises to welcome 2018 by patrolling Deltona streets. There is a new twist, however; Chitwood intends to crack down on private fireworks.

“If you go out and buy $500 worth of stuff and try to blow up the street, you may see a deputy sheriff drive down your street,” the sheriff said.

Chitwood said deputies may have Deltona code-enforcement officers with them, and there will be a two-pronged penalty for shooting off illegal fireworks.

“We’ll confiscate them,” he noted.

Deltona Public Information Director Lee Lopez, meanwhile, says “the idea of having Code office join VCSO deputies is still being discussed.’

Also, if code officers ride along, they may issue citations for the misdemeanor offense of using things that go boom in the night. A civil citation may require the offender to pay a fine, go to County Court, or appear before Deltona’s special magistrate for code enforcement.

The focus on fireworks stems from years of complaints by city officials and residents.

Florida law permits the sale of fireworks as long as the purchaser signs a form promising the explosives will be used to scare birds or other predators away from crops or fish hatcheries.

Fireworks stands typically crop up in the days leading up to New Year’s Day and July Fourth.

Chitwood’s New Year’s Eve tradition began several years ago, he said, when he would go on patrol in Daytona Beach, and, before that, when he worked as a Philadelphia police officer. In those places, he said, celebratory gunfire was a problem, and he and his fellow officers tried to find and arrest anyone shooting firearms into the air.

“We’ve had them shooting off AK-47s or shotguns or handguns. In Daytona, we would put a task force together,” Chitwood said.

On one occasion in Philadelphia in the middle 1980s or early ’90s, Chitwood said, “A guy was paralyzed when a bullet came down on his head.”

The shooter, he noted, was never caught.

The sheriff also announced he plans to set up “DUI wolfpacks” to fan out over the county on New Year’s Eve and early New Year’s Day to look for drivers who have had too much alcohol to drink, who speed or drive aggressively, or who “cross the double lines or maybe no headlights on.”

The wolfpacks will patrol well-traveled and dangerous roads of the county.

“No checkpoints,” he said. “We are going to be starting right here in Deltona, and maybe we’ll move up to DeLand.”

— Al Everson, al@beacononlinenews.com
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