NYPD Extinguishes Illegal Fireworks Possession, Sales

In advance of the upcoming July Fourth holiday, the New York City Police Department has already arrested dozens of people and taken ownership of some 125 cases of fireworks worth nearly $25,000. 

The ongoing initiative by the NYPD’s Organized Crime Control Bureau, which began in January, targets both black-market fireworks sellers within city limits as well as legal sellers outside the state – companies that are at least partially reliant on the many New Yorkers who make bulk purchases before turning around and heading back home.

“Anyone caught using, transporting or selling illegal fireworks anywhere in New York City can be arrested, and their cars confiscated,” Police Commissioner William J. Bratton said.  “This type of activity is not only illegal, but is extremely dangerous.  Each year these endeavors regrettably result in property damage, injuries and even death.”

In one operation on June 10, NYPD investigators trailed three New York men from a popular distributor in Easton, Pa., back to Manhattan, where police stopped and consequently arrested them in Washington Heights. Recovered inside their vehicle was an enormous Independence Day cache: 54 cases of fireworks worth approximately $10,000.

Two other Pennsylvania operations, at different dealers on June 18 and 19, resulted in three arrests in Staten Island and netted 22 cases of fireworks totaling about $7,000.

The NYPD’s provincial efforts have produced similar results.

On Monday morning, officers in the 106th Precinct executed a search warrant at a Queens’ home and charged the occupant with dealing fireworks worth more than $3,000. Recovered inside the home (shown above) were 16 boxes of “Flaming Balls,” two boxes of “Artillery Shells,” two 196-shot “Fire Candles,” nine boxes of “Battery Shots,” 11 packets of six “Roman Candles,” four packets of “Bottle Rockets,” three packets of “Firecrackers,” two “Grenade Crackers,” and other assorted fireworks.

People can – and do – anonymously report the delivery, sale or storage of illegal fireworks in New York City by calling 911 for crimes in progress and 311 to simply pass along information. And the NYPD offers up to $1,000 for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those who possess or distribute fireworks.

Through Monday, the NYPD had fielded nearly 50 fireworks-related calls to the city’s 311 system, and almost 600 calls to 911.

Confiscated fireworks are destroyed in controlled burns at the NYPD’s Outdoor Range in Rodman’s Neck, Bronx.

Fireworks in New York state have been banned since 1940. It is one of just four states that outlaws personal use of fireworks; Delaware, New Jersey and Massachusetts ban them as well. Pennsylvania fireworks stores may legally sell fireworks of almost any sort, to anyone who is not a Pennsylvania resident.

In Albany, elected officials are trying to change New York’s law.  Last week, the Legislature for the third time passed a measure that would allow sparklers and other small, novelty fireworks to be legal outside New York City from June 1 through July 5 and then again from Dec. 26 through Jan. 2 of each year.

Counties and cities would have the right to opt out of the program – a move that aims to appease Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who vetoed the last two versions of the bill. Cuomo has not indicated if he intends to sign this adaptation.

The bill would maintain as illegal the sale of any fireworks in New York City, and also make sales to anyone under 18 elsewhere in the state a crime.

Photo c/o The NYPD


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