Shotspotter Blog

5 Proven Tips that Effectively Reduce Celebratory Gunfire

New Year’s Eve is right around the corner and this is an exciting time for many people. As we ring in and welcome 2016, it’s important to understand the reality of illegal celebratory gunfire. Almost 15% of all gunfire incidents take place around New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day and the 4th of July. The dangers continue to be serious as stray bullets continue to injure innocent people and can be deadly.  Law enforcement agencies can take a proactive leadership role to help communities reduce this illegal gunfire this year.

What works to reduce celebratory gunfire?
The ShotSpotter team has evaluated cities year over year that have had significant reductions in celebratory gunfire and the communities that have had a reduction on New Year’s Eve continue to follow some simple best practices that can be used in any community. These tips have been proven to really work and make a difference in the number of incidents that happen on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.  When using these tips year over year, reductions in illegal celebratory gunfire decline. Planning, community engagement and enforcement of consequences are all key to the success of bringing celebratory gunfire down.

ShotSpotter cities like Springfield, Rocky Mount, Miami Gardens as well as many other cities have successfully followed these 5 reduction strategies:

1. Plan ahead – It’s not too early to begin planning for New Year’s Eve! Take the time to do research weeks in advance of New Year’s Eve to identify hot spots areas and record addresses where celebratory gunfire was detected last year. Then, use this list to engage the community and prevent it from happening this year in those same areas.

2. Engage agency personnel early – Communicate with your agency personnel along with probation/parole officers, and gang enforcement units and let them know the plan for reducing celebratory gunfire. Make a plan to reduce it this year, and talk about it openly at your agency.

3. Engage your community: Knock on doors, Use Social Media! – Assign uniformed agency personnel to visit each address on the hot spot list and talk with community residents weeks before New Year’s Eve. Take the time to explain the dangers of celebratory gunfire and tell of first-hand tragedies the local agency might have experienced. Communicate your police department’s New Year’s Eve policing plan with meetings, notices and be sure to announce on social media – make it clear to everyone in the community that celebratory is dangerous and illegal. Tell people that your agency is committed to reducing it this year to protect residents.

4. Enforce Consequences of celebratory gunfire – Remind residents of the criminal consequences of celebratory gunfire.  (The ShotSpotter team recommends publicizing and enforcing a strict “no tolerance” policy on this activity and aggressive prosecution of the case). You can also engage community leaders to make them aware of the dangers of celebratory gunfire and encourage them to report all incidents.

5. Assign special police units – During New Year’s Eve period – Assign additional special police units, resources and/or overtime cars, to hot spot areas for quick response to gunfire alerts.

Bonus New Year’s Eve tip from Rocky Mount, NC
Lieutenant Ryan Hepler of the Rocky Mount Police Department has had success with reducing celebratory gunfire over the past few years. Rocky Mount, NC had a 19.3 percent decline in celebratory gunfire incidents in 2014 vs. 2013 (from 57 to 46 incidents).  Ryan told ShotSpotter this week that part of his success includes this: he has patrol officers hand deliver informational letters to residents of addresses that had gunfire alert(s) the previous New Year’s Eve. He says this was an essential component to their success this past year.

For more celebratory gunfire reduction info:
• Download our new Celebratory gunfire reduction training video here.
• Download our Celebratory gunfire press release here.
• Visit our Celebratory gunfire resource center here.

Have a safe and Happy New Year from the ShotSpotter gunfire reduction team!

December 16, 2015
By: Ed Flosi, Director of Training, SST, Inc.