Sweet, ain't no kind of crackdown like a tougher crackdown.
Just like every other year, DC Police and the Fire Department are "cracking down" on illegal fireworks. In DC, that means pretty much all fireworks, excluding pointless "fireworks" such as sparklers and smokebombs and those things you throw at the ground that go "pop." Or the fireworks display at Nationals Park.
I grew up near the Illinois-Indiana state line, where the "illegal" fireworks trade came out each year in full force. Hundreds of fireworks stands popped up all along the Indiana side of the border. The fireworks were, as I understand it, illegal in Indiana, and if you bought them, you were agreeing you would take them out of state. The fireworks were also illegal in Illinois, so you'd have the Illinois State Police stopping all of the people as soon as they crossed the border. One fireworks dealer described the State Police's efforts as a "full paramilitary operation" involving camouflaged surveillance and undercover operatives.
Needless to say, despite the best efforts of law enforcement, each July you'd see and hear plenty of illegal fireworks as well as plain old gunfire as people "celebrated" the birth of our nation.
Here in DC, the "crackdown" apparently involves fire inspectors on the street and a partnership with MPD. Well, shit, I guess that puts that to bed. Nevermind the fact that I just heard about 15 firecrackers go off outside. Looks like the recession put the brakes on deploying the fireworks sniffing dogs on all of the bridges into DC.
While D.C. offers the annual PBS "A Capitol Fourth" spectacular on the National Mall, many residents prefer to create there own, including Calvin Scott Sr and his 9-year-old son, Calvin Junior.
"Come out here and we just shoot fireworks until 1, 2 O'Clock in the morning," the elder Scott said. "I mean, we have friends that go to North Carolina, pick up hundreds and hundreds of cases of fireworks. Believe it or not, we just sit out here and have an excellent time."
"We're going to shoot fireworks," he said, his son interrupting to question the wisdom of telling the world about their plans. "It's just something that's, you know, tradition," the elder Scott continued.
Fireworks can be dangerous, they can destroy fingers and start fires. Firecrackers can also sound a lot like gunfire (e.g. the person who called 911 saying they heard 60-80 gunshots! damn, must have been some firefight). However, this is quite like the battle against "illegal firearms" which the city has been losing for some time. Call me crazy, but I have a feeling that for as long as fireworks are sold anywhere on the eastern seaboard, people will bring them to DC and set them off. It's going to happen. No matter if we have an All Hands on Deck driving down every single block looking for some telltale white smoke.
The best resource in the city's crackdown is you and me, because as the DC Fire Department reminds us on their web site, it is our duty to report fireworks:
What can I do if I see someone engaging in illegal fireworks use or sales?Calvin and Calvin Junior had better watch out. Maybe DC FEMS (God, they need a better acronym) can pull their best fire inspectors off fire hydrant inspections to go look for firecrackers. Sweet. How's that Eastern Market fire investigation going, anyways?
As a citizen of the District of Columbia, it is your duty to report the use of illegal fireworks use or sales to the DC Fire Marshals office at (202) 727-1600 for immediate action.