Celebratory Gunfire

Every year Houston police officers respond to thousands of calls of reported gunfire. But at this time of year, the gunfire is often celebratory and officials warn it is illegal. Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson has more.

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For the past five years, the Houston Police Department and Crime Stoppers have organized a campaign to stop celebratory gunfire. HPD Assitant Chief Don Perales couldn't quantify exactly how big the problem was in the past, but says they have marked a reduction in the number of calls through raising public awareness about the dangers of celebratory gunfire.

"It's dangerous. People's lives are in danger when you're out there playing with weapons. You should never play with weapons, you should never play with them during any type of holiday situation. Go inside, have some eggnog, play with the kids, do something else but playing with guns during this holiday season should not be at the forefront."

HPD takes between 400 and 600 calls for service for gunfire during the week between Christmas and New Year's Day alone. And officials say a bullet shot into the air falls at a rate of 200 feet per second, fast enough to pierce through a car or even a human skull. Crime Stoppers Executive Director Katherine Cabaniss says they're asking residents to report celebratory gunfire to the police or to the 713-222-TIPS line.

"So we want you, the public, the citizens, to keep your eyes and ears open during this holiday season. You don't have to wear a badge and a gun to be able to fight crime in our neighborhoods or to make us all safer. You can act by picking up the phone and making an anonymous call to Crime Stoppers."

Discharging a firearm within the city limits is a criminal offense and is punishable by up to $4,000 in fines and up to a year in jail. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

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