Public's help needed to curb illegal fireworks


POSTED: Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Complaints about the use of illegal fireworks since Thanksgiving — including reports of “;exceptionally loud explosives”; islandwide — have caught the attention of police.

Chief Louis Kealoha issued a statement yesterday asking for the public's help in catching the culprits.

“;While the situation is not new, the problem seems to be increasing,”; Kealoha said. “;Many complaints involve the discharge of exceptionally loud explosives that can shake homes and scare and disturb neighbors and pets.

“;We are encouraging persons who observe anyone selling, possessing or setting off illegal fireworks to call 911 and meet with an officer,”; Kealoha said.

Officers are being sent to investigate, but the suspects are frequently gone by the time officers arrive, he said.

“;When officers do not personally witness violations, they must rely on witness statements. Unfortunately, the witnesses, usually neighbors, are extremely reluctant to identify the perpetrators and provide a statement. This is where we need the public's help.”;

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Police arrested two people in the last month and issued four citations for fireworks violations.

Police — working with the Fire Department, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Coast Guard and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — recovered 589 cases of illegal fireworks weighing 13,400 pounds with a street value of about $150,000 to $200,000.

Meanwhile, the Fire Department reported a bump in fireworks permit sales on Oahu after a four-year decline.

As of Monday, fireworks permits hit the 5,362 mark, a slim margin above last year's 5,208 sold (as of Dec. 29) but well below 2004 numbers, when they were nearly double.

Fireworks permits sold in previous years as of Dec. 28:
» 2007 — 7,964
» 2006 — 9,232
» 2005 — 10,315
» 2004 — 10,339

A permit costs $25 and is available at satellite city halls. There is no limit to the number of permits people can buy. Each permit allows a person to buy 5,000 firecrackers.