Two hundred kilos of fireworks in a shed near a house in Oude Pekela. A 17-year-old who keeps illegal and heavy fireworks under his bed without his parents’ knowledge. The police are currently busy investigating.
People do not realize the risks they run with heavy and illegal fireworks. You can hardly call this pranks anymore’, says Joop de Schepper. He is Head of Operations at the Northern Netherlands Police.
Yet that is exactly what the police do during this period: locating bad boys – they are often boys of young men who find heavy fireworks attractive – to ensure that the illegal fireworks disappear from the streets.
Short on the mat
People known to the police for heavy fireworks can expect a brief on the mat that the police have them in their sights. When it comes to young people, their parents are notified. ‘They don’t always know what their kind did last year, so we’re including them,’ says De Schepper. “We want to prevent things from getting out of hand on the night itself.”
In the Northern Netherlands, this happens more than average, says De Schepper. Last year, when a fireworks ban was also in force, 60 percent fewer cases. That not only means fewer bystanders who suffered scarring, but also less damage to houses off the street and less risks for furniture.
Alternative to fireworks is difficult
The police would like to continue that line. But there are also complicating factors. Corona makes it more difficult to think of one for fireworks, but alternatively us to think about how we can fill in New Year’s Eve in the future. A fireworks show is not possible anywhere, from a well-organized party to keep people busy that night’, says De Schepper.
Carbide shooting is a popular pastime around the turn of the year in the Northern Netherlands. That is well organised, but carbide shooting is also some frugal measures due to the corona measures this year. Villages could set up their own carbide associations to steer this in the right direction.’
Police are also in online trade groups
As has been the case for years, the police are also launching the search for illegal fireworks online. ‘We know that chat groups are received. Not only in fireworks, but also in weapons and drugs. It is noticeable that emergence arises with other forms of crime.’ The police are often visible and invisible in such groups.
The police do not have the illusion that this year will be a completely free New Year’s Eve. ‘We try to prevent the setting off of fireworks as much as possible by focusing attention on the user and by preventing fireworks from being set off.’
Buying fireworks in Germany, where there is no ban, is not a smart way to avoid the ban, according to De Schepper. ‘Even if you have fireworks in the car, you are punishable. It’s just not allowed this year.’