What to Know
- Nearly 200 have been arrested in NYC over illegal fireworks since Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a task force crackdown on June 23
- Fireworks complaints have soared to unprecedented levels over the last month and a half; there's no clear reason for the extraordinary surge
- The number of 311 fireworks complaints July 4 through July 6 skyrocketed by more than 2,429 percent over the same time period the year before, city statistics show
Nearly 200 illegal fireworks have been made in New York City in the two weeks since Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a multi-agency task force to crack down on the problem amid an unprecedented level of complaints, officials said Tuesday.
The mayor revealed the task force, comprised of 10 officers with the NYPD Intelligence Bureau, 12 FDNY Fire Marshals and 20 Sheriff's Bureau of Criminal Investigation members, on June 23. Its primary goal: to disrupt illegal fireworks supply chains via sting operations within and outside New York City -- and officials say the group busted a total of 195 people since it was established.
It's not clear what prompted the extraordinary surge in illegal fireworks usage, which prompted sleep-deprived New Yorkers to protest in front of Gracie Mansion one night last month amid continued booming. At the time de Blasio announced the task force in late June, the city was up to 13,000 complaints, an astounding increase from the mere 32 reported in the same period the prior year.
The constant nighttime displays looked like ongoing Fourth of July celebrations well before the holiday. In the Bronx and Brooklyn, people were intentionally shooting them at each other in "fireworks wars," officials said. Multiple injuries have been reported, including to a 3-year-old Bronx boy who had fireworks blast suddenly through his family's apartment window as he slept in his bed one night.
The problem continued over the July 4 holiday weekend, which of course featured city-sanctioned fireworks by Macy's among other events. But those happen every year, so they don't explain the jarring jump in complaints.
The number of 311 fireworks complaints July 4 through July 6 skyrocketed by more than 2,429 percent over the same time period the year before, city statistics show. A total of 10,801 complaints were made over those three days in 2020 compared with just 427 over the same three days in 2019. Both three-day periods involved a Saturday night each year; one had a Friday, the other a Sunday.
Given the number of complaints, New York State Police also jumped to assist over the holiday weekend. They targeted illegal fireworks being brought into the state from Pennsylvania, making 21 arrests and seizing more than $27,000 in illegal fireworks.