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'I thought somebody blew up the park next to me’ - Mayor Walsh tells residents to quit fireworks

Fireworks exploded over Dorchester as seen from Blue Hill Avenue last week.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh said Wednesday that the din of illegal fireworks has been “worse than usual” this year on city streets with July Fourth looming, and he urged residents to curb their use of the loud pyrotechnics.

Walsh addressed the fireworks issue during a briefing outside City Hall.

“There’s always been illegal fireworks leading up to the Fourth of July,” Walsh said. “But this year it’s worse than usual. It started early, and it never seemed to stop. The data is eye opening. Fireworks calls to the Boston Police Department this year were up by 2300 percent.”


Thought that figure was a mistake? So did the mayor.

“When I saw that number I thought it was a misprint,” Walsh said. “Twenty-three hundred percent this May compared to last May. That’s 27 calls last year in May to over 650 calls this year in May. It’s hard to believe that those numbers actually happen. If we weren’t hearing it, and if I wasn’t hearing the fireworks with my own ears, I wouldn’t know the difference. ... Almost every single elected official in every single neighborhood has reached out to us here about these fireworks.”

That’s because they’re scaring people, according to Walsh.

“People are frightened,” he said. “People are losing sleep. Babies and kids are woken up. Pets are terrified. Our veterans and others with PTSD are experiencing real harm, and it’s a real fire hazard in our city. ... The police have been able to confiscate some illegal fireworks, but there’s only so much that they can do. So I’m asking you, if you are involved in this behavior, I want you to think about the people around you. ... Think about your community, and stop it.”

The mayor’s words were echoed by one constituent who said fireworks have been a constant source of irritation.


“We called the police, and I understand the police have a lot on their plate, but this is ridiculous,” said Beverly Young, 64, of Roxbury. "I can’t sleep. My neighbors can’t sleep.”

Young said the noise is like “a nightmare.”

“I don’t sleep at all,” she said. "I am up right through the night. I try to lay down in my basement, but I can hear the fireworks from there, too.”

Cleaning up used fireworks is a tedious process as well, she said.

“I go down to the street every morning to look, and the amount of fireworks boxes I have seen, where do people get the money to buy these? It takes the whole day to clean the street,” Young said.

She said neighbors must be considerate of one another during such a stressful time.

“We have to learn to get along with each other with what’s happening in the world right now,” she said. "People should be working together, loving each other, doing things for each other.”

Young said she’s in favor of jailing suspects caught with illegal fireworks.

"Maybe this should be a wake-up call for them,” she said. “It’s challenging for the City of Boston to deal with these issues, and it all comes down to the individuals and what they choose to do.” It would even be helpful, Young said, "if people just reach out to the people who are actually doing it and ask them to divert it because this is very disturbing.”


At-large City Councilor Julia Mejia will host a public forum 6 p.m. on Thursday to discuss how the fireworks have been affecting residents and what can be done to fix the issue. The discussion will be available on Mejia’s Facebook page.

Stephen J. Weymouth, a prominent Boston defense attorney, said he didn’t think fireworks scofflaws should be arrested.

"That just does not seem to make any sense to me, the goal should be to get people to stop using fireworks, not punishment,” he said. “I just wish there would be a specific, official, formal policy about what the residents are supposed to do.”

This year, Weymouth said, "since it’s going on at all hours of day, people are confused about what to do. Should they call the police or not call the police? I still have not called the police for various reasons, but there’s been lots of talk about what to do.”

Over the years, he said, "it’s come and gone pretty quickly. This year, I’ve noticed they started an awful lot earlier than the middle of June, and I have found them to be going off at all different hours of the night. [The fireworks] seem to be a lot louder than normal this year, I don’t know if they’re closer or what.”

Whatever the reason for the louder bang, Walsh said during his briefing that Massachusetts residents can’t blame their neighbors to the north for the fireworks flap.


“I think we make an assumption that these fireworks come from New Hampshire,” Walsh said, adding that a police officer recently told him “some of these fireworks that are being set off, they’re not sold in New Hampshire.”

Normally, he said, Bostonians start hearing the blasts of illegal fireworks right before July 4.

“Usually fireworks start July 3, you hear them the 4th, you hear them for a week after and they go away,” Walsh said. “This has been tough. One went off the other night, and I thought somebody blew up the park next to me.”

And it’s the nighttime disturbances that must stop, said Priscilla Brown, 36, of Mattapan. She conceded that fireworks have their place.

"They throw amazing parties, but when they disturb my sleep for two weeks straight, it’s time to pack that up,” Brown said. “They need to be arrested because [they’re] overwhelming 911, disturbing the peace for miles around — literally thousands of people — and they’ve had multiple warnings. Apparently they’re not getting the message. It’s consequences for bad behavior.”

The noise has severely affected her sleep, she said.

“There was a point where I’d only get two or three hours a night, and one period where I didn’t sleep for 48 hours,” Brown said. "That’s when I got angry.”

Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com.