NYPD Getting Serious Over Illegal Fireworks
As if to underscore that fact, a police officer was arrested by fellow officers in a sting operation aimed at those bringing in the illegal fireworks from out of state.
In fact, officers from the NYPD are reportedly staking out fireworks vendors in Pennsylvania and in other states where selling the explosive material is legal to see if city residents are among the buyers.
Sources say that more than 140 people have already been arrested for bringing in the fireworks from outside the state. In addition, 43 cars have been seized.
The special task force working Pennsylvania has also seized 1,321 cases of fireworks including popular M-80's, Roman Candles and Cherry Bombs.
"If you use fireworks this July 4, you or somebody else can be badly hurt. If you have fireworks, you will be arrested.
If they are in your car, your car can be confiscated," says Brian McCabe, the Crime Prevention Officer for the 100 Precinct in Rockaway Beach.
"There will be zero tolerance for those who buy sell fireworks, for those who buy them and for those who use them."
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told reporters recently that new civil penalties for using fireworks without a permit mean that anybody setting off the pyrotechnics faces a $750 fine.
There is a reward of $1,000 for information leading to an arrest
and conviction in fireworks cases. In the past, locals have traveled to Pennsylvania and South Carolina to bring back large shipments of fireworks that were then sold in the neighborhood and used during the Independence Day celebration.
Today, however, experts say, much of the illegal fireworks coming into New York City are purchased over the Internet from sites such as www. usfireworks.biz, a large Pennsylvania firm that ships all over the nation.
A case of Bottle Rockets, one of the more popular pyrotechnics, sells for $104.40. Acase of Texas Size Pop Rockets With Report goes for $168.84 on the web.
A four-shot rack of Starr Rockets sells for $97.38.
Larger pyrotechnics, such as their advertised "Americana 37 Shots," a single "cake" pyrotechnic that provides for "colorful tails breaks, comets and whistles," sells for $266.
"We use drop-shippers to pack and ship fireworks from rural locations inside Pennsylvania," the Website says. "While we would like to sell American-made fireworks, overzealous regulation of the fireworks industry by individual states has pretty much eliminated most American manufacturers.
We travel to China every year to buy fireworks and we only import those items that we think that people will really enjoy."
The company says that 95 percent of its business is done between May 15 and July 4.
The Website also offers information and books on how to make your own fireworks.
All of that makes it difficult for local officials to control the sale and use of the dangerous explosives.
But the NYPD vows to continue the crackdown.
"Anybody who uses fireworks in Rockaway this July 4 is going to get caught," says McCabe. "This crackdown is for real."