Remember, remember... to avoid illegal fireworks - Leicestershire police
Police are urging people to report criminals selling "dodgy" fireworks without a licence.
Officers in the county's Arson Task Force, working alongside the fire service and local authorities, are particularly concerned about unlicensed sellers targeting children.
The team's Safer Firework Campaign was launched yesterday, urging customers to buy only from licensed traders in the run-up to bonfire night.
Detective Constable Del Gillespie said: "We had several reports last year of a white van travelling around Braunstone, selling damaged fireworks.
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"We are certain it was targeting youngsters and they are our main concern."
He said the problem with old or damaged fireworks was they were very unpredictable and likely to go off without warning.
He believes criminals without a licence are also operating on city estates such as New Parks and Beaumont Leys, as well as at car boot sales and on pub car parks across Leicestershire.
"We understand in the current financial climate that people are looking to get a bargain but they are gambling with their safety and that of their children," said Det Con Gillespie.
"We feel this is a far bigger problem than is being reported. That's why we would urge anyone who comes across these individuals to get in touch with us.
"They won't be in trouble, it's more a matter of public safety and we need their help."
Ash Hajat, a fire service community safety officer, said: "Fireworks can burn at temperatures of up to 1,600C, hot enough to burn through your hand.
"We urge people to always buy fireworks from licensed dealers which meet British Standard BS 7114.
"The consequences of buying old or damaged fireworks from unlicensed dealers could be devastating. If in any doubt at all, visit an established, reputable fireworks store."
The team, with the help of city wardens, are visiting shops, youth clubs and schools in the next few weeks to reinforce their message.
Michael Panayi, owner of Leicester Fireworks, in Narborough Road, a licensed firework trader with more than 30 years' experience, is backing the campaign.
"You get these guys coming into the shop and you know they are checking out your prices to undercut you," he said.
"Illegal sellers are a danger to their customers and damage the reputation of the industry.
"Every shop selling fireworks must have the facilities to store them in controlled conditions."
To report anyone selling fireworks without a licence, which should be on display and available on request, call the police on 101.