Because of the fireworks ban, the police see the trafficking in illegal fireworks increases sharply. Social media channels such as Telegram, Snapchat or Instagram help buyers and sellers find each other.
The police will read along with these kinds of groups, but they cant intercept all transactions. “In some fireworks groups on Telegram there are more than 10,000 members”, says Femke van Neutegem, of the police Schiedam know.
Where illegal fireworks were previously sent from Poland by mail to the Netherlands and the parcels could be intercepted in the distribution centres, the police now have to change the way they work. The fireworks unit spends more than 15 hours a day tracking and picking up salesmen of illegal fireworks online.
“People want to bang anyway”
Lars (real name known to the editors) has been selling fireworks illegally for a few years. He earned it well in previous years, but this year the sales are even better. In the past three months, he made almost as much as last year in eight months.
He understands the people who buy fireworks from him. “People want to bang anyway, its been a bad year and we want to close that out. Normally people do that with fireworks, but because they cant do that now, they go on the illegal path.”
Lars got to know through people who could sell him large batches of fireworks. “I have that sent to a bunker in Germany, and then I drive back and forth when I have a number of orders.” He knows that with selling cobras and heavy nitrates he is at risk of severe punishment. “A cobra 8 is equivalent to owning a kalashnikov, if you get caught with it, you get five years in jail,” he knows.
According to Van Neutegem of the police, the buyers of illegal fireworks are not aware of the consequences. “What we see is that boys around 15 years old buy a pack of nitrates and then sell them to other children at school. Most of the time, these children are not aware of the consequences that could have.”
Children under 16 years old who are caught by the police selling fireworks do not get rid of it with a warning, but should immediately go to the childrens court. “We now focus on the young people who sell it to other children in the neighbourhood and in schools.”
are great concerns about the illegal fireworks. “You can compare this heavy fireworks with a hand grenade or mass explosive”, said fireworks expert Ad Nieuwdorp of the police. “If that goes off in a residential area then you really have a big problem.”
Now that police control borders and mail order companies strictly, traders seem to be using drug routes more and more to get the fireworks to the Netherlands. The illegal fireworks are collected abroad and sold in the Netherlands from, for example, trunks and cars, the police noted.
“Police dont control it.”
“ If you read that the police have seized 4000 kilos of fireworks somewhere, thats just the tip of the iceberg,” says Lars. “We sell those quantities in a week.” Occasionally, he notices that the police are reading under fictitious accounts. “So if a newly created account without followers or messages suddenly sends me a message, I have reservations about that.”
He understands the fact that the police are tracking illegal trafficking in this way. “But they dont have it under control. Just look at the riots in Urk, in Roosendaal and in Arnhem.”