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Crackdown on fireworks leads to 3 arrests in 2 days

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

LAST UPDATED: 12:23 a.m. HST, Dec 24, 2010


» Retailers can begin selling fireworks for this New Year's Eve celebration beginning Sunday. An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect date.


Three people have been arrested in recent days for either selling or setting off aerial fireworks as police step up enforcement in anticipation of what could be a noisy New Year's Eve.

Meanwhile, top law enforcement officials yesterday urged the public to use better care when dealing with fireworks during the holiday season, while Mayor Peter Carlisle suggested people turn in their neighbors if they see them violating fireworks laws.

Two Makakilo residents were arrested yesterday afternoon in the Kapolei 16 Theatre parking lot for attempting to sell aerial fireworks without permits.

Officers from the Pearl City District arranged to meet with a man and a woman after receiving information that the two had been selling illegal aerials.

Jacqueline S.Y. Lee, 38, and Ikaikaalii K. Smith, 24, both of a Palahia Street address, were arrested and charged with selling fireworks without a license, a Class C felony. They were released on $100 bail.

A Kalihi man was arrested Tuesday night in Kalihi after patrol officers heard and then witnessed him setting off illegal aerials.

The suspect, 20, ran from the scene, but was then arrested for using prohibited aerials, a petty misdemeanor. Ranie Ranga of Kealoha Street was released on $1,000 bail.

A new city fireworks law that takes effect Jan. 2 bans all fireworks, except firecrackers, on Oahu. Some have predicted that, as a result, there will be a lot more fireworks set off this holiday season -- both the legal and illegal kinds.

Police Chief Louis Kealoha said at a press conference yesterday that HPD is stepping up its crackdown of fireworks violations.

"We're going to have extra officers working on New Year's Eve," Kealoha said. Special enforcement teams will focus on neighborhoods that get the most reports of violations, he said.

Both uniformed and undercover officers will be out on New Year's Eve, and HPD will be inspecting roadside and traditional retail vendors to ensure they are complying with the law, he said.

The amount of fireworks imported so far this year is running about 10 percent more than a year ago, according to the Fire Department. The law requires people shipping in fireworks to file a report with the department.

About 2.27 million pounds of fireworks have reportedly been brought to the island this year, said HFD Battalion Chief Socrates Bratakos. That's about 9 percent more than the 2.09 million pounds brought in last year.

Of the amount shipped in this year, only 133,098 pounds, or 6 percent, consisted of firecrackers. In 2009, 143,682 pounds, or nearly 7 percent, of the total amount of fireworks brought in were firecrackers.

Retailers may begin selling fireworks on Sunday. Bratakos said there are 142 retail locations licensed to sell fireworks this year, almost identical to the 144 licensed retailers in 2009.

Under the current law, permits from the city are required for firecrackers, but not sparklers and other novelty items. Each permit costs $25 and entitles a person to buy up to 5,000 firecrackers. There is no limit on the amount of permits an adult can purchase.

Aerials are illegal.

As of Tuesday, satellite city halls reported selling only 1,671 such permits for the year. Typically, however, sales of fireworks permits don't pick up until after Christmas.

There were 8,055 permits sold in all of 2009.

Carlisle, meanwhile, urged Hawaii residents to turn in people they see setting off fireworks illegally, including their neighbors. He said he called police in his Hawaii Kai neighborhood several years go when fireworks set a neighbor's roof on fire.

"I told (police) exactly where it was going on," he said. "Call and do it. If you don't get involved, then it's going to continue and people are going to be hurt. This is one of those things where we always ask witnesses to come forward."

Fire Chief Kenneth Silva and Emergency Services Chief Jim Ireland also joined Carlisle in urging people to be more vigilant during the holidays, especially when it comes to driving on Oahu's roads.

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