Illegal fireworks

New York State Police seized these consumer fireworks from residents of the Jamestown area over the weekend.

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York state is getting serious about stopping illegal fireworks from being brought across the state line from Pennsylvania.

The New York State Police has launched a new effort against illegal fireworks, a move that comes in response to widespread complaints of fireworks throughout the state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. The issue has affected the New York City area and numerous communities in Upstate New York — including Olean.

“Some nights in New York City, it sounds like the Wild West with all the fireworks going off,” Cuomo said. “I’ve never heard it like this before.”

Authorities in the Olean area and New York state as a whole have been relatively lax in enforcing fireworks laws. Backyard and field displays — some quite elaborate — are common in Olean and across the Southern Tier, particularly in the week around July 4, and arrest reports are rare.

However, the spring and early summer of 2020 have seen, well, an explosion of fireworks far exceeding the norm. And it’s a phenomenon that’s been reported nationwide.

Law enforcement has attributed the increase in fireworks activity to, in part, folks being cooped up and with fewer entertainment options during the coronavirus pandemic.

Olean Mayor Bill Aiello reminded the public last week that the use of most fireworks is illegal.

“We have received a number of calls regarding the use of fireworks throughout our community,” the mayor said. “I ask our residents to be mindful of their neighbors.

Fireworks disrupt a number of households, including those with dogs, families with young children and many veterans suffering from PTSD.”

Fireworks remain illegal in New York, Cuomo pointed out, while many types are readily available in Pennsylvania — particularly in the days leading up to the July 4 holiday. They’re also dangerous and cause injuries every year, the governor added.

The state legalized sparklers and some other incendiary devices in 2018, but that doesn’t include the type of larger aerial fireworks being seen across New York.

Cuomo also said the state will provide local governments with additional “enforcement tools” to help confront the fireworks problems. He didn’t offer any details about the new tools during his press conference.

The state police effort appears to be underway already.

Just after Cuomo’s briefing began this morning, troopers announced a joint fireworks detail with the Jamestown Police Department that took place on Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. Seven people were arrested for transporting illegal fireworks during the detail, troopers said.

Consumer fireworks available in Pennsylvania — and which are illegal in New York — are aerial in performance and are commonly referred to as sky rockets, bottle rockets, missile-type rockets, helicopters, aerial spinners, Roman candles, mines, shell devices, aerial shell kits, reloadables and audible ground devices which are commonly referred to as firecrackers and chasers, as well as metal-wire handheld sparklers.

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