Emergency service worker safety paramount at New Year, says police chief

New Year fireworks in Enschede. Photo: Depositphotos.com
New Year fireworks in Enschede. Photo: Depositphotos.com

The top police priority during this year’s New Year celebrations will be ensuring the safety of emergency service workers, police chief Willem Woelders has told the Parool in an interview.

Second on the priority list is making sure ordinary citizens are kept safe, while upholding the coronavirus rules and the ban on fireworks are in third place, Woelders told the paper. ‘We cannot check up on everyone, and have to make choices,’ he said.

Like last year, firework displays, and all but the very lightest consumer fireworks have been banned because of the coronavirus pandemic. In 2020 the rules were widely flouted although the number of people injured by fireworks was down sharply.

The increasing popularity of the most powerful type of fireworks remains a problem, Woelders said. ‘They are basically explosives which you can use to blow up a car,’ he said. ‘It is extremely dangerous stuff, nothing to do with fireworks really.’

So far this year police have seized over 170 tonnes of illegal fireworks aimed at the Dutch market, stored in both the Netherlands and just over the border with Germany.

Some 10% of people told a survey by local government news website Binnenlands Bestuur that they still intend to set off fireworks this New Year, despite the ban.

‘We are not going after every firecracker that gets thrown,’ Woelders said. ‘But if public order is jeopardised and people are in danger, then there will be arrests and fines.’

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