Queens cops crackdown on illegal fireworks

Queens cops crackdown on illegal fireworks

The 106th Precinct showed off one of its massive fireworks seizures on Twitter.  Photo courtesy 106th Precinct

The 106th Precinct showed off one of its massive fireworks seizures on Twitter. Photo courtesy 106th Precinct

Police are looking to defuse illegal firework usage throughout the borough this holiday weekend before the injury numbers skyrocket.

The NYPD said it first mobilized its Organized Crime Control Bureau back in January to start going after black-market fireworks sellers and even legal sellers from outside of New York, where fireworks are illegal. Precinct commanders throughout the borough have been diligent in pushing the department’s fireworks crackdown after records showed deaths and injuries were on the rise in 2013.

Jeffrey Schiff, deputy inspector for the 106th Precinct in Ozone Park, said police were tackling illegal fireworks with a zero tolerance approach this year. Starting July 3, Schiff said, his precinct would be sending an additional 30 uniformed officers, including sergeants and lieutenants, to sniff out illegal fireworks. Other precincts in the area, including the 112th Precinct in Forest Hills, said similar numbers would be hitting the streets to fight firework usage.

“If we see fireworks going off in the backyard, we are allowed to enter that property and stop that illegal activity from happening,” Schiff said. “The owners will be issued a summons.”

The deputy inspector also squashed any misconceptions homeowners might have in regards to firework activity, which includes anything as little as a sparkler.

“If you think you can lock your gate, that’s not going to work either,” he said. “We will cut the locks, go in and will make arrests. We’re not going to kid around. We have too much to do on that day.”

The NYPD site said anyone caught with fireworks could be arrested, their cars confiscated or their businesses closed. A total of 93 separate seizures were recorded as of July 1, resulting in 56 arrests and 33 summonses, the Police Department said.


The 106th captain said there have already been some success stories in the department’s efforts to combat illegal firework usage, including one search warrant that resulted in more than $3,000 in fireworks seized.

Schiff tweeted out a photo of the big catch, which included 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 fireworks.

The NYPD put out a reward for up to $1,000 to anyone offering up information leading to sources buying, possessing or selling illegal fireworks, as long as the information leads to an arrest. Once officers seize the fireworks, Schiff said they are destroyed in an outdoor range in the Bronx.

The Police Department website outlined another incident on July 10, when officers followed three New Yorkers to a popular distributor in Pennsylvania and then back to Manhattan, where they were arrested for holding 54 cases of fireworks worth about $10,000.

Schiff was tapped earlier this year along with the 112th Precinct in central Queens to lead the department’s interactive Twitter initiative and has been using the social medium as a means to collect noise complaints among other issues. He said he would be using similar methods when looking where to deploy his officers on July 4th weekend.

“Just how I’ve handled the noise is exactly how I intend to handle the fireworks,” he said. “I want to make that very clear.”

Eight people died last year and 11,400 were injured because of fireworks, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported. In that year alone, more than 40 percent of injuries were the result of simple things like sparklers or rockets, the report said.

“…Fireworks incidents become deadly when banned, professional and home-manufactured devices are involved,” the report said. “In each of the eight fireworks-related deaths recorded in 2013, the victim was manipulating, or was a bystander to someone who was handling, a banned, professional or home-manufactured device.”

By The Forum Staff


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