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Fireworks task force unveiled as NYC looks to get ahead of illegal summer pyrotechnics

Illegal fireworks illuminate the sky over Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, on June 19, 2020.
REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

The rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in the air over New York City last summer gave proof through many a night that illegal fireworks were still there — and out of control.

Hoping to avoid a repeat of the illegal fireworks displays this summer, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Wednesday a task force intended to crack down on pyrotechnics in the city.

The task force will pool the resources of the FDNY, NYC Sheriff, NYPD intelligence, Port Authority Police, NY State Police, New Jersey State Police, Yonkers Police and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). The task force consists of 32 officers: 10 from NYPD Intelligence, 12 from the FDNY Fire Marshals unit, and 10 deputy sheriffs from the Bureau of Criminal Investigations. 

“Illegal fireworks are noisy, they disrupt the peace, but they can also be dangerous, and we have to understand how important it is to ensure that illegal fireworks are confiscated so they can’t do harm to people in communities,” said de Blasio. 

The task force’s goals, the mayor said, are to root out illegal fireworks storage locations and to prevent people from smuggling pyrotechnics into the five boroughs. Illegal fireworks are obvious fire and explosion hazards when in the possession of untrained hands — one mistake could result in serious injury, property damage and even death.

“We’re going after the people who bring these fireworks into New York City to begin with,” said Mayor de Blasio. “We’re going right at the source.”

The task force is looking to develop information on who the major suppliers are. They will target the sellers using the resources available to them and through the use of technology. 

“We are going to look to intercept these illegal fireworks as they come into New York City,” said Sheriff Joe Fucito. 

The danger of illegal fireworks goes beyond just the fire hazards they pose. They have an effect on veterans and on children. They are also very loud and can disrupt the sleep of residents — something which Bronx City Council Member Fernando Cabrera pointed out at Wednesday’s briefing.

“Many of our veterans who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are affected by these fireworks,” he said.

De Blasio noted that fireworks can still be enjoyed this summer at legal, permitted shows such as the Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks Extravaganza, set to take place on Sunday night, July 4.

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