Walsh orders up fireworks ‘task force’

Fed up, like many Bostonians, with the increase at all hours of illegal fireworks in the city, Mayor Walsh has set up a task force to address the issue ahead of the Fourth of July holiday. 

“Fireworks are a serious issue not only in the City of Boston, but all across the country,” Walsh said last Friday. “People lose sleep, babies get woken up, some people with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) experience real harms, pets are terrified – and they’re fire hazards.”

Last month, Walsh said, complaints of fireworks in the city had increased by 2,300 percent in May. According to the mayor’s office, fireworks calls to the Boston Police Department in June were up from last year by a factor of 5,543 percent, an increase in calls from 139 to 7,844.

The task force includes Jerome Smith, the mayor’s chief of civic engagement, At-Large City Councillors Michelle Wu, Michael Flaherty, Julia Mejia and Annissa Essaibi-George, the Boston Arson Squad, the Boston Police Department’s Bureau of Community Engagement, and a slew of community leaders whose names Walsh will announce this week. 

Mejia told the Reporter on Friday that she intends to incorporate community feedback that she solicited during an online ‘Fireworks Trauma’ forum that she convened last month. The event drew 300 participants from across the city, some of whom described how the near-nightly barrage of explosions impacts people with PTSD.

“I’m hoping to get an opportunity to continue this work and build on a framework that we’ve already created,” Mejia said.

“I had a quick conversation with the mayor and Jerome Smith about the community-centered standpoint. My team has partnered with non-profits and gathered perspectives from residents in different neighborhoods.” 

Bostonians generally expect to hear fireworks sounding off in their neighborhoods in the weeks leading up to and following the Fourth of July, but the frequency and intensity of this year’s display has been significantly worse than usual. 

Boston Police do respond to calls for fireworks and confiscate large quantities. However, community service officers in Dorchester have acknowledged that there are limits to enforcement efforts and that they have been overwhelmed by the volume of calls this season.