San Francisco's Chinatown sees drop in illegal firework sales

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The Fourth of July is when illegal fireworks sales should be heating up in Chinatown, but this year business on the streets is slow.

Chinatown, San Francisco has always been one of the most popular, if not the most popular, marketplace for illegal fireworks during the Fourth of July. There are still plenty of buyers on the streets, the problem many of these buyers are having a hard time finding the sellers.

In the past, Chinatown's streets were filled with sellers, but not now. These last two Fourth of July holidays it has been hard finding them.

One man told ABC7 News he spent all morning trying to find one. We left him still looking.

Another person, who did not want his name used, said he too was having trouble. He said, "I couldn't find anything. Everybody seems to be really nervous right now. I was out four months ago and if you'd walk into a store and say 'firecracker' and they'd pull stuff off the shelf. But now you walk in and everybody's like 'no, no, no.'"

But he finally succeeded. He bought a box of small bottlerockets for $40.

The runners -- the street sellers -- normally set off small fireworks on the streets to let people know they're selling the big stuff. The runners are usually neighborhood teens trying to make extra money on this holiday week. The runners are nervous because of the police enforcement.

On Wednesday, they arrested three people who sold 22 M-1000 fireworks to an undercover officer. M-1000's are powerful explosives.

"The experts tell me if you had one in your hand and you light it, it could blow your hand off. It could blow an arm off. It's very dangerous," San Francisco Police Capt. David Lazar from the Central Station said.

Police also tell us, Internet sites like Craigslist are cutting into the street runners' business. You can find all kinds of fireworks there.

Just last week, police raided a home in Pittsburg and confiscated more than a ton of illegal fireworks which were being sold on Craigslist.

In Chinatown, you can still find them. But now, many of the sales are being done in the safer confines of stores. You just have to know which ones. One store sells souvenirs and the fireworks are hidden under the cash register. When ABC7 News were there in the store there was a steady stream of customers. It seemed to be an open secret.
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fireworks4th of julycrimeChinatownSan Francisco
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