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'Leave the fireworks to the professionals' this holiday weekend, Bellone advises

Suffolk Police Chief Stuart Cameron cautions residents to not mix fireworks with alcohol use over the holiday weekend.  Credit: Jeff Bachner

Bay Shore resident Teresa Vecere was in her kitchen Wednesday afternoon when the firework blasts shook more than her psyche.

“I was physically shaking from those explosions that happened around the corner,” Vecere, 55, said of the suspected M-80 eruptions. “I didn’t take my blood pressure, but I could feel my blood pressure going up and did experience dizziness.”

Vecere, who has health conditions that are exacerbated by the constant booms from illegal fireworks, says they have been a daily nuisance since the spring. The pyrotechnics in her neighborhood have become more frequent during the summer, she said.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Thursday there had been a “significant increase in the number of complaints to the police department about … use of illegal fireworks throughout the county.”

Bellone, along with Suffolk Police Chief Stuart Cameron, spoke at a media briefing Thursday at the county’s fire academy in Yaphank. They addressed being safe around fireworks during the Fourth of July weekend.

“I know this is something we all look forward to on the Fourth of July weekend, seeing fireworks, it’s an annual tradition,” Bellone said. “But it’s critically important that we recognize the potentially disastrous consequences when nonprofessionals are utilizing illegal fireworks. … Leave the fireworks to the professionals.”

Bellone pointed to a statistic from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission that, on average, 230 people a year are treated in emergency rooms because of injuries caused by fireworks. He added that in 2017, sparklers, which are illegal statewide, caused 1,200 injuries.

“Those statistics are alarming and they’re preventable,” Bellone said. “Children should not be allowed to use or ignite fireworks or sparklers.”

Vecere has called police multiple times this summer over the use of illegal fireworks. Police statistics on Long Island show she is not alone.

Suffolk police say there has been a 121% increase in complaints about illegal fireworks in 2020, or 144 complaints through June 25, compared with 65 complaints about illegal fireworks during the same time period in 2019.

Nassau County police said in late June, complaints about illegal fireworks have spiked more than 400% in 2020. Records show police received 1,277 complaints about fireworks in Nassau County compared with 242 during the same time period in 2019, police said.

At the news conference Thursday, Cameron said officers “will be out in force this weekend looking to track down firework violations.” Penalties could be stiff, he added.

“Possession, for example, of 10 M-80 fireworks will result in a felony under the labor law for possession of an explosive device,” he said. “If you have a lot of fireworks, you could be in jeopardy of being charged with a felony.”

Cameron added he was concerned about how some revelers who had been pent up for months because of the pandemic might “overindulge” with alcohol.

He said drinking excessively could quickly turn celebrations into nightmares.

“I’ve repeatedly seen a fun event turn to tragedy all too many times,” Cameron said. “Alcohol and fireworks should never mix.”

To that end, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said in a statement Thursday that police would be stepping up their DWI enforcement over the weekend.

“Drunk or drugged driving robs families of fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, spouses and friends. Nassau County will not tolerate anyone getting behind the wheel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” Curran said.

Huntington Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci also released a statement Thursday, saying the town’s Harbormaster’s Office will have a full staff of four patrol boats on Huntington waterways this weekend on the lookout for overcrowded boats, speeding watercraft and impaired boaters.

"There is no excuse for drinking and boating,” Lupinacci said.

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