Sunday, July 3, 2011

Illegal fireworks small town's explosive main export

Just inside Nevada, about 10 miles from the San Bernardino County line, sits a small town where Californians go to get their fix of activities that are illegal back home.

The place is Pahrump - a city where gambling and prostitution are legal and whose main export is fireworks that are banned in the Golden State.

This time of year, law enforcement officers from state and county departments are on the lookout for sedans, minivans, box trucks and semi-trucks hauling loads of illegal fireworks into California.

"It's a battle," said Dan Glozer, a detective in the San Bernardino County Sheriff's bomb unit. "I've been involved in this for eight years."

Patrons who visit the three fireworks mega-stores in the desolate city have 24 hours after the purchase to remove the explosives from Nevada's Nye County.

A box of aerial shells, which shoot into the air and then explode, costs $25 in the stores, but people in California are willing to pay $50 to $75 each, he said.

"This is better than dope," he said. "And it's a misdemeanor."

Anything that flies across the ground, shoots in the air or explodes is illegal, according to California law.

Anyone caught using, or in the possession of, illegal fireworks could be fined. Parents will be responsible for any fires,

damage, injuries and fines caused by their children using fireworks, officials said.

Some local agencies will have additional personnel and equipment on duty to enforce zero-tolerance of illegal fireworks this weekend and through the holiday.

Despite the patrols, drivers are still smuggling fireworks into California. And they're getting past officers with the help of the mega-stores and veteran smugglers.

Fireworks stores in Pahrump have been known to hand out maps highlighting alternative routes that avoid sheriff's patrols. But in the desert, there are tell-tale signs that a vehicle is carrying fireworks, Glozer said.

"They will take everything out of the boxes and stuff them in every orifice of the car so the boxes aren't showing. Then they will cover everything with blankets," he said. "But who covers their car in blankets when it's 90 degrees outside?"

Source: http://www.dailynews.com/news/ci_18399880?source=rss

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