Fireworks complaints in NJ prompt warnings from police, doctors
Certain fireworks are available for legal purchase in New Jersey, and have been for nearly three years.
But these non-aerial explosives likely aren't the ones going off nightly in neighborhoods throughout the Garden State, grabbing the attention of frustrated neighbors as well as state officials. Social media posts, from both residents and police departments, suggest the illegal activity is occurring in both cities and the suburbs.
"We have a zero-tolerance policy, so if you're planning on setting off fireworks, expect a visit from us," the Brick Police Department posted on Facebook, citing numerous resident complaints "of large, mortar type fireworks."
The department said it's sending out extra patrols specifically for targeting fireworks violations. Igniting and launching fireworks in New Jersey can result in a fine of up to $1,000 and six months in jail, the department said.
Jersey City Police Department announced earlier this month the creation of a new unit devoted to cracking down on fireworks and noise complaints. A new deployment was announced in Hoboken as well, to address a disturbance the city had been facing for several nights straight.
Many residents, meanwhile, appear not to be in the mood for a pre-holiday light show. Fireworks are keeping them up at night, along with their babies, they've said online. The sounds and vibrations, they say, can be particularly bothersome to veterans who've fought in a war zone, as well as pets.
"External cues have the ability to trigger emotional distress or physiological reactivity. They could create an association with a mortar round, a rocket attack or small-arms fire," Jeffrey Beck, a licensed therapist with Family & Psychological Counseling in Marlton, said of post-traumatic stress disorder among veterans.
Beck, who served overseas in Iraq in 2005, said if residents responsible for shooting off fireworks with no warning knew how their behavior impacted many veterans, perhaps they'd stop.
"That association can put somebody directly back in that mental state, which now has the propensity to really create a ripple effect," Beck said.
Dr. Mary Lou Brongo, chief of staff at Brick Town Veterinary Hospital, has had to care for animals that attempted to bite through a metal fence in response to nearby fireworks. Or they've scratched a door or fence so fiercely their nails were shaved off to nothing but blood.
"They're more sensitive to sounds. They're more sensitive even to the vibrations of those fireworks," Brongo said. "Some of those fireworks, they have that really high-pitched squeal before they go off. It literally terrifies them."
Brongo suggests pet owners keep pets inside when fireworks are in action. Anxiety medication is an option but often it's not administered in time because owners don't know when the booms may begin, she said.
"Please think, if it was somebody you loved, or a pet that you loved, that you were frightening," Brongo advises.
Social media posts from police have pointed to the potential for significant property damage caused by fireworks, as well as injuries.
Greg McLaughlin, the state's fire warden with the New Jersey Forest Fire Service, said summertime typically isn't "fire season," but it's been dry recently and the state has been lacking significant rainfall.
"All vegetation can act ultimately as fuel for a fire," McLaughlin said.
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