NEW YORK (Reuters) – After weeks of bone-shaking explosions and fired-up night skies, New York officials on Tuesday vowed to lower the boom on the big-time purveyors of the illegal fireworks that have sparked a burst of complaints across the city’s five boroughs.
A 42-member task force from the New York Police Department, the Fire Department and the Sheriff’s Bureau will investigate fireworks trafficking and conduct sting operations in an effort to cut off the supply, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced.
“We’re cracking down on this activity at the source to ensure the safety of all New Yorkers and the ability of our neighbors to get some sleep,” de Blasio said in a statement.
At a briefing, de Blasio also said the city will sponsor an campaign aimed at warning young people of the dangers of fireworks.
Even considering the usual spike in fireworks use in the run-up to the U.S. July 4 Independence Day celebration, complaints in New York and other parts of the country have skyrocketed this year. The city’s 311 hotline received 2,492 fireworks complaints from June 1-16, up from just 25 in the same period in 2019.
As part of the crackdown, investigators will stem the flow of contraband from neighboring states, including Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania where some fireworks are legally available, possibly with legal action, Sheriff Joseph Fucito said.
“The city of New York has done that before in the areas of tobacco trafficking and firearms,” Fucito said.
With shootings and homicides on the rise during the city’s coronavirus lockdown, De Blasio said he expects police to be sparing in answering individual fireworks complaints, since the kids who set them off would likely be gone by the time officers arrive.
De Blasio also said that the city’s well-known annual Macy’s fireworks display will be broken up into a series of nightly five-minute shows in each borough beginning June 29, instead of one big July 4 show, in an effort to reduce crowd size.
“This July 4th is going to take on added meaning,” he said. “We’ve all been through so much.”
(Reporting by Peter Szekely; editing by Jonathan Oatis)