Police Gear Up For New Year's Fireworks

Maj. Kurt Kendro
Maj. Kurt Kendro

(KHNL) -- With Christmas still a few days away, it may seem a bit early to talk about New Year's Eve fireworks. But with fireworks sales set to begin the day after Christmas, Honolulu police are already gearing up for a busy time.

Sure, there are other occasions to pop fireworks. But there's one night that triggers the biggest bang.

"There's a tremendous difference between New Year's Eve and the July fourth holiday," Maj. Kurt Kendro, Honolulu Police Department, said. "Culturally in the islands, the New Year's Eve holiday is huge."

Not only does the sky light up on New Year's Eve, so do the 911 phone lines.

Last New Year's Eve, Honolulu police say they responded to more than 1,200 fireworks-related calls. That's everything from nuisance calls to reports of criminal property damage. The number's up from 964 in 2004, and 575 in 2003.

"Part of that has to do with public education, as well as knowing what the laws are now," Kendro said. "People are aware of what's illegal and reporting it to us."

Police say they're particularly concerned about the popular, but illegal, aerial fireworks.

"Those are the ones that we are most afraid of because they're selling them out of, unregulated, out of warehouses or out of houses," Kendro said. "And that's a huge danger to the community."

Fireworks-related offenses range from a violation, which carries a fine of up to $2,000, to a felony with a possible 10-year prison sentence.

Like the smoke that blankets the city, officers say they'll be out there covering the streets.

"There's increased staffing on New Year's Eve because of the volume of calls for service, as well as the types of calls for service, the severity of the calls," Kendro said.

The Honolulu Fire Department says nearly 14,000 fireworks permits were issued last year. That number was up from the roughly 12,600 permits issued in 2004.