Social Media, Internet Help Fuel Illegal Fireworks Sales

By Rick Sallinger

DENVER (CBS4) – Fireworks are meant for fun, but they can also be dangerous. That’s why there are laws. In Denver, “if you can light it or ignite it it’s illegal to buy sell or shoot fireworks,” according to Doug Schepman, a Denver police spokesman.

But CBS4 found that getting around those laws is as simple as placing an ad on Craigslist. Numerous ads for the Denver area displayed pictures of items for sale. One offers packages ranging from $75-$100. After texting around, CBS4 investigator Rick Sallinger arranged a meeting.

fireworks 3 Social Media, Internet Help Fuel Illegal Fireworks Sales

(credit: CBS)

In a Denver parking lot a woman greeted Sallinger by remarking “You look like an FBI agent.”

Wearing a dress shirt and tie, he replied “No I’m not an FBI agent.”

One of the people in the car recognized him as a newscaster, but the transaction continued anyway.

fireworks 1 Social Media, Internet Help Fuel Illegal Fireworks Sales

(credit: CBS)

“How much is it?” Sallinger asked.

“100 bucks,” the woman replied.

He answered, “Is this legal? You are shaking your head no. Why is that?”

She then said, “I’m not, anyway got the money?”

What CBS4 did is similar to what Denver police are doing — finding illegal sales and making busts. In one southwest Denver location, up to $5,000 worth of fireworks was recently confiscated from a home.

“The danger is it explodes in the tube, it blows off and blows all your fingers off,” a Denver police officer explained.

fireworks 2 Social Media, Internet Help Fuel Illegal Fireworks Sales

(credit: CBS)

CBS4 even found people using Facebook to sell fireworks. But with one Sallinger contacted, the seller wrongly suspected it was a police officer trying to set up a sting.

RELATED: Resident: City Needs Better Solution To Illegal Fireworks

But not that time at the location in the parking lot. The people selling the fireworks only seemed to get suspicious when CBS4’s camera appeared.

“Oh my gosh,” the surprised woman remarked.

Sallinger then said, “I’d like to ask you if you know what the law is regarding the sale of fireworks like this.”

She quickly put a large box containing a variety of fireworks inside her car and drove away.

CBS4’s Rick Sallinger is a Peabody award winning reporter who has been with the station more than two decades doing hard news and investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter @ricksallinger.

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