SFPD crackdown on illegal Chinatown fireworks

San Francisco police are cracking down on the sales of illegal fireworks in Chinatown, an area often targeted by sellers and buyers in the days leading up to the Fourth of July.

Police say they started their illegal fireworks operation Monday and it will last through the weekend. On Friday, they arrested six people in what is described as "buy-bust" operations.

"One of our officers is involved in a potential transaction with one of the sellers," said Lt. Brian Hoo who took a KTVU crew along on an undercover operation. A KTVU news crew was there when Lt. Hoo received word from his plainclothes team that they were about to arrest three suspects for selling illegal fireworks in Chinatown.

Police say the transaction started with an officer overhearing a suspect talk about selling fireworks on busy Grant Avenue. The officer approached the suspect to discuss a sale.
"The suspect walked our officer over to another location where two more individuals were waiting with fireworks as you can see here. And after the transaction was completed, our officers took the suspects into custody," said Sgt. Steven Spagnuolo.

The asking price for the fireworks in the bag the three suspects were planning to sell to the plainclothes officer was $300.

After arresting the men, police located one of the suspect's car and found more bags filled with fireworks.

"This looks like bottle rockets and a couple of other mortars. The same thing," said one officer who showed KTVU the illegal fireworks that were found in the trunk and back seat.

The officer estimates that the street value is more than $1,000.

This was the second bust of the day. Just hours earlier, two juveniles were arrested for possession and sales along with a 21-year-old for buying.

Police say they will be charged with felonies.

"People like to shoot off fireworks. It's' fun but it's dangerous. You can lose limbs [and] get very hurt. It's another year of drought so fires can start very easily because of fireworks," said Sgt. Spagnuolo.

Police say this year, sales of illegal fireworks are slower than previous years, but expected to pick up as the holiday nears.
"With the Fourth of July, this is probably our last push to get rid of the fireworks before Monday," said Lt. Hoo.

Police say all six people arrested Friday are from San Francisco.

Their ages range from 17 to 28. Three of the men arrested during the second bust have prior arrest records, according to police.