Bringing in the New Year with fireworks and scratch bombs could land people in a heap of trouble with law enforcement officers, with perpetrators facing a hefty $1,000 fine.In a telephone interview yesterday, deputy police commissioner Ann Marie Alleyne-Daly said lighting firecrackers and scratch bombs was illegal.Quoting and summarising the Summary Offences Act and the Explosives Act, she said: "It is illegal and an offence to throw, cast or set fire to fireworks in any town."
Alleyne-Daly said citizens could call the police and make a report about firecrackers in their area "and the police will respond."The law also applied to devices which have a similar explosive effect when detonated, she said.She added: "I would like to let members of the public know the throwing or casting of scratch bombs or these devices is illegal and it is an offence and you can be fined $1,000."The people are usually young and we want to advise parents that this could be dangerous to children."
Alleyne-Daly said vendors selling fireworks needed a licence to do so and that could only be granted by the Commissioner of Police.She added: "Under the Explosive Act the Commissioner is the only person to grant a licence to someone to sell gunpowder, explosives or fireworks."Anybody who contravenes that is likely to be fined $1,000 and the premises must be certified in writing that there is a fireproof vault to store the explosive and no licence will be issued unless those things are in place."
Alleyne-Daly said the police annually received several complaints from the sick, elderly and animal owners.She noted that during the final quarter of the year, when citizens used the devices to celebrate events like Divali, Christmas and New Year's Day, it was particularly distressing to those citizens."We would like to see a stop to these things. It is a safety and health issue and an illegal act," she said.
Contacted on the issue yesterday, National Security Minister Gary Griffith said the importers of the fireworks usually had authorisation.He said: "It is in how it is used. That is what is illegal. Many people tell me they are concerned about the animals."The police have to make a policy decision. If it is against the law they need to implement it. It has been going on for years now."It is a straight case of the police being aware there are laws governing a situation. It is incumbent on them to enforce it."
Donna Cox, MP for Laventille East and former Minister in the Ministry of National Security, meanwhile, questioned why the products were being sold if they were illegal.She said: "Plenty of complaints...how come people openly selling it? I seeing firework stalls throughout the country. Why are they allowed to sell it?
"They are very insensitive to the elderly, even the animals. My yard was dirty because the remnants of the fireworks came down in my yard. Or if it lands on your house, which could cause a fire and a fire hazard," she said.
Cox said people continued setting off fireworks and scratch bombs until well after midnight which is uncomfortable and unfair, adding animals also suffered a lot. "I feel it is time the authorities get something done. The laws need to be implemented. Why the police not stopping them?" she asked.On the social network Facebook and on radio talk shows, there were numerous complaints yesterday about the noise made by firecrackers.One commentator said scratch bombs were becoming a serious problem.
"Thus far, I have heard people complaining in St Ann's, Morvant, Arima, Freeport, Couva, San Fernando, San Juan, Barataria, Maloney and right by me here in Tunapuna...It's crazy! They bursting this thing everywhere. My mom said somebody pelt on her roof. Ah mean, if I jumping, what about old people relaxing, children resting, teens studying. Ah mean, have a heart, nah," he said.
Sales slow in Port-of-Spain
Several small vendors who sell fireworks in Port-of-Spain yesterday complained that business was slow but said it would get better today, it being New Year's Eve.Shogun Colour, String Bomb, Razzle Dazzle, Shine, Pyropaint balls, Blackcat and Spacerocket were the names of some of the fireworks being sold. Some were being sold on the same stall as fruits, vegetables, clothing and other items.Stephen Williams, a vendor at Queen and Henry Street, said business was slow.
"Sales are very, very slow all over. I know friends selling even in South and it slow," he said.Williams said, however, that he agreed with the penalising of citizens because there were "one or two delinquents.""It is important to know but we not selling it illegal. We got it cleared through Customs," he said.Jaden George, another vendor, who also sells vegetables at Charlotte and Duke Streets, said she was hoping business would pick up.
"It is very slow and they not giving no licence. You still take the chance, you have to live. Survival of the fittest," she said.By contrast, a staff member at Fire One Fireworks yesterday said business had been booming."Sales have been great and we've been selling a lot since we opened on Boxing Day," she said.
Animals also affected
Nalini Dial, Animals Are Human Too activist, yesterday said pet-owners should secure their animals and the law should be enforced."For years we have been putting up with the fireworks. It is illegal and it seems like the police can't enforce the law. They are not supposed to be used in residential areas and sold and bought or imported without a licence. It is being sold all over with no enforcement," she said.
Dial said children, the sick, the elderly and animals were tormented every year from Divali onwards."We have to stop this. The police and Government have to put down their feet and stop this abuse. It is lawlessness to the highest degree. Everybody complaining but not doing anything about it. Neighbours are without consideration for others," she said.Dial said she secured her animals by "boarding" her dogs at the vet."It also affects bird and other animals. Safely secure your animals," she added.
Member of the T&T Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (TTSPCA), Mary Stern, said the police did not intervene when people complained about the noise of fireworks."If we can get them to buy noiseless fireworks it would work but they don't do that. You could see it and don't need a bang."The police don't get involved. They do nothing. You go put the whole of Trinidad in jail?" she asked.
Summary Offences Act:Fireworks and firearms
99. (1) Except as prescribed by regulations under this act, any person who throws, casts, sets fire to, or lets off any fireworks within any town is liable to a fine of $1,000.
(2) ..."town" includes the City of Port-of-Spain, the City of San Fernando, and the Borough of Arima, and every part of the area within two miles of the boundaries of such city or of either of such boroughs, and also any place or area declared by the minister, by order, to be a town or to be deemed to be included within a town for the purposes of the said sections.
100. Any person who throws, casts, sets fire to, or lets off any fireworks into, in, or upon any street not being in any town, or into, in, or upon any place being within 60 feet of the centre of any such street, is liable to a fine of $400.