It’s still May, but business is booming for the undercover cops of the NYPD “fireworks initiative,” as two Long Island men found out recently in Bayside.
Joseph Aydelott, 72 and his son, 48-year-old Joseph, Jr., both of Long Island were arrested at approximately 5 p.m. on Thursday, May 21 as they drove a Chevy cargo van loaded with large-sized fireworks into Queens.
According to a spokesperson for Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown, the father-and-son team is currently awaiting arraignment on a charge of “Dealing with fireworks and dangerous fireworks.” If convicted, they each face one year in jail.
In addition, “their passenger van has been impounded,” arresting officers said, as they displayed their haul at the 111th Precinct headquarters.
The role of intercepting fireworks brought into the city has fallen to a “fireworks initiative task force,” according to Lieutenant Louis Riccardo of the Brooklyn vice-squad, who led the six-man team.
“We observed the subjects buying approximately $2,300 worth of fireworks at Phantom Fireworks in Delaware Water Gap Pennsylvania,” he said. “They were followed across the Throgs Neck Bridge, and were pulled over onto a grassy area at the Cross Island Parkway and Northern Boulevard,” he continued.
According to Lieutenant Riccardo, the seized fireworks “would wholesale for about $5,000 and have a street value of $10,000.” At $500 of value, the penalty for fireworks possession goes from 90 days to a year, under New York law.
Police have taken to staking-out fireworks stores in Pennsylvania, looking for cars with New York plates, in response to a rise in fireworks incidents in recent years.
“We make a few arrests a week, and it goes up as Fourth of July approaches,” one officer commented. “They have to understand we mean business.”
Under their state law, it is illegal for a Pennsylvania resident to even enter a fireworks store without a permit. However, out-of-state residents “whose status is verified” can purchase fireworks, but they must be transported out of the state.
When called by The Queens Courier, Bill Weimer, who identified himself as “the assistant manager” of the Phantom Fireworks company showroom, said that they observed state laws. As for New York and New Jersey prohibitions, he said, “That’s not part of our laws here.”
Weimer offered that “they [New York and New Jersey] could do a better job of monitoring.”
When informed that the Aydelott men had been followed from his store to Queens and the arrested, he said, “We have stalking laws,” and accused officers of “stalking the victims,” then hung up.
In 2006, Weimer was quoted in a published report as saying that “he asks New York police to quit taking pictures of his customers’ license plates and leave his stores but that they go across the street and ‘give off that New York cop attitude’.”
According to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, 67 percent of those requiring fireworks-related hospitalization are children.