Cops taking aim at illegal fireworks

Cops plan to seize any illegal fireworks they can find this year, before burning them all, like this pile, at the police firing range in Rodman’s Neck.
Courtesy NYPD

Put those bottle rockets, Roman candles, firecrackers and even sparklers down, Bronxites – and leave blowing things up to the pros.

That’s the word the NYPD is sending out as it launches its annual crackdown on amateur fireworks in the weeks shortly leading up to the Fourth of July.

Police are offering a cool $1000 reward for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of someone without a state pyrotechnics license caught possessing or selling fireworks.

Cops are also spreading the word that anyone caught with explosives is subject to a $750 summons and can even be arrested, if the supply is big enough.

East Bx on watch

In the Bronx, the 49th Precinct plans to have vans cruising up and down both sides of Pelham Parkway on July 4, keeping an eye out for illegal firework igniters.

“It really is not worth it to light off fireworks yourself,” said Detective Vic DiPierro, a community affairs officer at the precinct covering Morris Park, Van Nest, Pelham Parkway and Allerton.

East Bronx community leaders said that locals are still prone to setting off their own fireworks, though the explosions have plummeted since Mayor Giuliani engineered a massive crackdown in the Nineties.

“It hasn’t been a huge problem since Giuliani, but you will still find fireworks in private homes here,” said Joe Thompson, president of the 49th Precinct Community Council.

Police at the 45th Precinct, which covers the easternmost slice of the borough, said they haven’t heard many complaints yet about illegal fireworks rocking the neighborhood.

But like always, they’re on high alert this time of year.

“If you see your neighbor lighting them, stop them and tell them that it’s illegal,” advised an officer in the precinct’s Community Affairs bureau.

Sparkler danger!

Even the most innocuous looking firework – the handheld wire sparklers – is illegal under state law, after Gov. Cuomo vetoed a law in 2013 that would have made them legal for adults over 18.

“Anything you can put a match to can get you in trouble,” said DiPierro.

Fireworks may look fun – who are we kidding, they are definitely fun – but medical experts warn that amateur shows often lead to serious injuries.

Children and teenagers are especially vulnerable to burns and ruptured eardrums, said Dr. Ernest Patti, senior emergency room physician at St. Barnabas Hospital in Belmont.

Particles can blow into the eyes and face, while fingers are especially open to injury, said the doctor. Sparklers are especially dangerous, he said, because adults often give them to children without realizing the risks.

“The problem is that people don’t realize how hot sparklers are,” said Patti. “Those things can heat up to over 1000 degrees Fahrenheit.”

Patti said the ER sees victims of firework injuries every summer – though some of the victims claim that the burns happened in other, less illegal ways.

“Sometimes people come in and say ‘I was in an accident’ but don’t say how,” said Dr. Patti. “They are real hesitant to say it was because of fireworks.”

Besides the scorching hot sparklers, the doctor warned against so-called “M-80” firecrackers, small round fireworks packed with gunpowder and which have a very short fuse.

Bronxites seeking a safer experience can celebrate legally at a fireworks show June 27 at Orchard Beach, co-sponsored by Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and State Senator Jeff Klein.

There are no fireworks planned in the borough on Independence Day itself, with the city’s big Macy’s show shooting off on the East River by the Brooklyn Bridge.

“Go to a legal fireworks show,” advised DiPierro, the community affairs detective at the Four-Nine. “Celebrate with your family, have a nice cookout, but please: Leave the fireworks out of it.”

Reach Reporter Ben Kochman at (718) 742–3394. E-mail him at Follow him on Twitter @benkochman.

More from Around NYC