By Alexia Evripidou
POLICE yesterday warned they would take a hard line on firecracker use over the Easter period, with 8,000 firecrackers already confiscated in the last month, 2,000 alone in the last couple of days.
Most of the firecrackers confiscated reportedly come from the north through the mixed village of Pyla in the Larnaca district. Several arrests have been made. Jail sentences can run up to as much as ten years.
Police also urge parents to keep a watchful eye on their children as in the past youngsters have lost fingers or eyes when playing around with firecrackers.
“Police are trying to communicate to the public through: media campaigns, education of children and exposure via social media, the legitimate dangers of firecrackers. We want to prevent and protect people from serious injuries,” said police spokesman Andreas Angelides.
On Tuesday night police stopped the car of a 27-year-old Greek Cypriot in Pyla and seized 600 firecrackers. The man, who had 15 boxes of 40 crackers each in the vehicle was arrested, charged and will face trial at a later date.
Another vehicle also spotted Tuesday in Archangelos by the riot squad MMAD, led to the second arrest of the night. The car which had its engine switched off, was searched and the 27-year-old driver was taken in after two firecrackers, a bag with tools, a hood and gloves were discovered.
In another two cases in Nicosia, a 17-year-old youth was nabbed with17 firecrackers and a house search of another 27-year-old man, uncovered a box of 24 firecrackers and 33 pills believed to be methamphetamine. Both men have been arrested with the latter detained.
The number of firecrackers confiscated last year reached 43,000, with a one-off raid in central Limassol seizing up to 28,000. This year numbers have dropped significantly to the 8,000 seized in the past month.
Angelides said a large amount of firecrackers come from the north, most of which go through Pyla, which he said was under heavy surveillance.
Angelides confirmed yesterday that their media operation was being waged on several levels. It aims to inform the general public of the dangers of firecrackers whilst simultaneously finding, commandeering and penalising the offenders.
Community police have been visiting schools to inform children of the hazards of firecrackers. Angelides urges parents to also step up and share their part of the responsibility by ensuring that children do not get involved with the dangerous explosives.
With six people injured last year, one of whom lost four fingers, police are taking infractions seriously. “The penalty for illegal possession of firecrackers is up to ten years imprisonment, it is a serious offence, due to the explosive nature of the firecrackers” said Angelides.
Talking on public broadcaster CyBC yesterday, a victim of a firecracker explosion Nicos Vasilliou spoke of his ordeal when he nearly lost his hand to an erupting firecracker in 2000.
Highlighting how he had suffered as a result of the incident over the last 14 years, Vasilliou pleaded to children to stay away, especially during the Easter festivities. He said that the “children need to stop this tradition, which is not actually a tradition.”