New York City

Fireworks Complaints in NYC Jump 10x Compared to 2020

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Fireworks merchants in Pennsylvania say sales are booming and many customers have been coming from New York, where authorities have been working to crack down on illegal fireworks ahead of the July 4 holiday.

If you've been anywhere in the tri-state, the sounds of fireworks over the last year have been hard to miss and complaints to 311 have skyrocketed in the first six months of this year. NBC New York took a trip to firework stores across the border to Matamoras, Pennsylvania, and spotted vehicles with New York and New Jersey license plates fill the parking lot despite most of the fireworks sold there are deemed illegal in both states.

One customer from New York says he's only getting the legal handheld sparklers and ground based fireworks.

"This is going to be a big year with the fireworks. I really think alot of people want to go out buy fireworks, have a good time," he said.

Another upstate New York man's cart was filled with large fireworks, which he said would be set off on private property. However, they may not fly with law enforcement officials who are vowing to stop the sales and use of illegal fireworks.

In just the first six months of 2021, 311 calls for illegal fireworks increased to more than 2,800 --- a dramatic spike compared to 282 calls last year.

"This is serious stuff so our job is to pull together the work of many agencies to stop the fireworks from coming into New York City to begin with," Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

Just this week alone, NYC Sheriff's fireworks task force confiscated two large illegal shipments. Two weeks ago, cops arrested someone in the Bronx after fireworks exploded in the street. Last summer, a 3-year-old boy was left with burns and stitches to his head after fireworks shot through his apartment window.

"I think as long as it's under supervision and you're doing it responsibly it’s ok. But you know you have your unresponsible people and that’s what causes the problems," said the upstate New York man who's one of the critics that say fireworks should be legalized. They say the key is to educate people on how to use them safely.

Phantom Fireworks, one of the largest fireworks retailers in the U.S., has been working to do just that.

"We have a safety table right here that's got a list of best safety practices in there and some of the things you might want to use," said Dan Perth, the company's Director of Government Affairs. "Education. Experience. People starting to figure out there's a safe way to do this."

Meanwhile, fireworks stores say they don't expect sales to slow down anytime soon as people buy their fireworks last minute.

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