Watch CBS News

Mayor De Blasio Forms Illegal Fireworks Task Force To Go After Suppliers In 'Huge Sting Operation'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Mayor Bill de Blasio says cracking down on illegal fireworks starts at the source.

On Tuesday, he established a task force that will target suppliers and distributors in an effort to stop the flow of fireworks into the city.

"Illegal fireworks are not only illegal, but they can be dangerous. We need to get that message across, and that's what we intend to do," the mayor said. "We also intend to go to the root cause -- and that is the people who are supplying the fireworks, the folks who are profiting off of illegal fireworks. We're going to start a huge sting operation to go and get these illegal fireworks at the base."

WATCH: Mayor De Blasio Discusses Illegal Fireworks Task Force 

New York City neighborhoods have been rocked by the blasts for days, and the number of 311 calls has skyrocketed.

The NYPD reported 11,535 calls for illegal fireworks between Jan. 1 and June 21 -- compared to 54 during the same time in 2019.

There were also 13,315 complaints to 911 during the same period, compared to 1,007 in 2019, CBS2's Marcia Kramer reported.

In a disturbing incident on Monday, a suspect was seen throwing a firework at a sleeping homeless man, and police say another person launched fireworks at police officers on Ocean Avenue in Brooklyn.

The FDNY says fireworks also caused a fire on the upper floor and roof of a building on Valentine Avenue in the Bronx.

The new task force will consist of 20 members of the sheriff's office, 12 members of the FDNY, and 10 members of the NYPD.

De Blasio said the FDNY will help develop a public safety campaign about the dangers. He also said the NYPD will assist but remains focused on the recent uptick in shootings. The mayor said officers will not be targeting the kids on the corner with firecrackers. Instead, they'll be out trying to stop gun violence.

However, there will be all sorts of action undercover, de Blasio said.

Watch Dick Brennan's report --

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams suggests this kind of enforcement be handled differently.

"With plainclothes or with community affairs officers with a lighter attire, not too intimidating, going out, identifying these problems and really start the process of confiscating those who continue to use them," he said.

Professor Henry Smart, of John Jay College, says this is a chance for people in the community to step forward when they can do it safely.

"If you see youth out in the street, maybe even youth that you're familiar with, just roll your window up and say, hey guys, I've got a kid in here trying to sleep, can you take it to an open field or farther down the block,'" Smart said.

City Sheriff Joseph Fucito said out-of-state fireworks businesses will be key targets.

"What we see, often times, the person selling the item out of the back of the van didn't acquire it in a small way. They actually went to another jurisdiction and made a significant purchase, let's say $10,000 or more in some type of contraband that's illegal in New York City," Fucito said.

New Yorkers told Kramer they've had just about enough of the big bangs.

"It could be troubling because you try and go to sleep and it's 3 o'clock in the morning and you're waking up. There's a big explosion," Mario Najera said.

"We've got little kids and it's nice to have the windows open and the fireworks are going off from 8:30 to 1:30 in the morning, waking the kids up," Peter Walter added.

"They go off every night until around 12 o'clock, starting at seven maybe every night, and some of them are firecrackers some of them sound like bombs," another city resident said.

"It's like thunder sometimes, it's bad," one woman said.

"It's affecting my kids, they can't sleep. I have a son who's on the spectrum," Jenny Fernandez, of the Bronx said.

Fernandez says the loud noises really bother her son.

"I have to comfort him, put him back to sleep. I have to wake up in the morning to go to work and things like that, so ... it's difficult," she told CBS2's Dick Brennan.

Fed-up New Yorkers took their complaints directly to Gracie Mansion, loud horns giving the mayor a dose of overnight noise.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.