Under bill, cell phone footage could be used to arrest fireworks violators

Published: Mar. 2, 2017 at 3:36 AM HST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2017 at 8:09 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's a Hawaii tradition that some say has gotten out of control.

Illegal aerial fireworks are set off islandwide during the holiday season, and residents who report the aerials say they're frustrated with a lack of police action.

Now they're hoping a new proposal at the state Capitol will lead to more arrests.

The measure would allow residents to provide police with material like cell phone videos, written testimony, and photos of people using illegal fireworks.

"That can be used as probable cause to allow the officer to arrest the criminal," said state Rep. Sharon Har, who adds she wants to give residents more power in protecting their communities.

"It's just getting to the point now where people in West Oahu are tired of their lives being disrupted by these individuals who continue to break the law," Har said.

Jame Schadel, of Kapolei, said the problem is now more than a nuisance.

"They explode 10 to 15 feet above our house and our house shakes. We're afraid to close our windows because of the pressure from the fireworks," he said.

Schadel said aerial fireworks in his neighborhood have been getting louder and stronger every year.

He is not opposed to fireworks, but during the holidays, he says he hears explosions every night for two months. And he hates how traumatic it is for his 74-year old father, a Vietnam veteran.

"I'm just tired of seeing him suffering in his own home. He should feel safe in the confines of his home," said Schadel.

He added, "The common reply from the police department is they have to physically watch the individual light the fireworks."

This past holiday season, the Honolulu Police Department received more than 1,100 complaints about fireworks between December 26 and January 2.

The proposal before lawmakers has strong support from the county fire departments, West Oahu residents and pet owners. However, the Prosecuting Attorney's Office says the bill is unnecessary because current law does not require police officers to personally witness the devices being set off.

"We're tired of HPD not being able to do anything, so we want to give them the additional tools so they can enforce the law," Har said.

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