STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Many neighborhoods across this country have been crackling with the sound of fireworks, mine is no exception. Some of these fireworks displays are illegal. And some people would like to call the police. So why would some be reluctant to dial 911? Sally Herships has more from New York.
SALLY HERSHIPS, BYLINE: Let's start by getting a couple of things straight. First, fireworks in New York City, all illegal, at least if you're a consumer. Next, if you're one of the many people thinking, this summer seems louder than others, you're right. According to the NYPD, last year, between January and mid-June, there were about 50 fireworks complaints. This year, there have been 11,500.
ERIC ANDERSON: It's kind of been a bit, like, all-consuming, to be honest, because I go to bed hearing it. I get woken up hearing it. And then on my Twitter feed, all anybody is doing is talking about it (laughter).
HERSHIPS: Eric Anderson is 33. He lives in Brooklyn with his girlfriend and his Pomeranian-corgi mix, Archie. He says, in his neighborhood, the explosions seem to follow a schedule.
ANDERSON: Now that we know when they start, we need to, like, hunker down in our bedroom around 9 o'clock. We close the door. I bought, like, thicker curtains, trying to block out some of the noise. I turn the TV as up, as loud as I can. I have, like, three fans and the A/C. But when they're that close, you still feel the booms.
HERSHIPS: Here's a sample. Warning, it's loud. Anderson shot video of the fireworks from his kitchen window.
(SOUNDBITE OF FIREWORKS EXPLODING)
HERSHIPS: He says he can't tell who's setting them. But there are a lot of conspiracy theories, like that the CIA or police are coordinating an attack on communities of color. Scott Smith is with the National Fireworks Association. He says the reality is simpler. People are just buying a lot of fireworks this year. And Smith wants to squash another rumor. He says, these fireworks are not professional grade. Those are bar-code tracked. Also, to use them, you need a special tube to launch them safely.
SCOTT SMITH: But, yes, if that firework was not shot from the proper tube, it would fire almost instantly, right? And it would have nowhere to go.
HERSHIPS: But, for the most part, these fireworks are making their way upwards and infuriating people trying to sleep around the country. One Brooklyn resident emailed to say he's moving after 11 years. The fireworks aggravate his epilepsy. Others wrote about how difficult it is to tolerate loud bangs when you live with PTSD. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says the fireworks are a problem and the city is going to crack down on suppliers.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
BILL DE BLASIO: We're going to start a huge sting operation to go and get these illegal fireworks at the base.
HERSHIPS: As for Anderson, he's created a special Twitter handle. He's filed a complaint with New York City's hotline for non-emergency services. But so far, he's stopped short of one step, calling the police. Across the city, in uptown on the west side, Cynthia Ceilan is feeling equally frustrated by the nightly fireworks outside her third-floor window. But she's also, pointedly, not calling 911.
CYNTHIA CEILAN: A big part of my hesitation was a worry about what an interaction between whoever was setting off these illegal fireworks would be if confronted by the police when our nerves are so raw right now.
HERSHIPS: Ceilan says she's weighing the lesser of two evils being bothered by the noise and her dog's nerves versus the possibility that a kid just watching would be mistreated by a rogue cop. She has another worry, too, police not showing up at all.
CEILAN: I have this terrible feeling that there will be cops that would say - it's like, oh, you want to defund the police? Well, you deal with this problem.
HERSHIPS: When asked about unresponsive police, the NYPD didn't respond to our request for comment. For now, Ceilan says, she's not calling. She's just hoping that tonight will be better.
For NPR News, I'm Sally Herships.
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