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Illegal “celebratory” gunfire spikes on New Year’s Eve

December 30, 2015

Newark, CA, December 29 - Springfield, Mass. topped the nation with the largest reduction in New Year's Eve celebratory gunfire, down 60 percent from 2013 to 2014, according to ShotSpotter data. Thanks to a proactive policing plan and the implementation of ShotSpotter Flex, the leading gunfire detection, location, alerting and analysis solution, Springfield dropped from 15 gunfire incidents to six (a 60% reduction). New Year's Eve is the busiest night of the year for illegal "celebratory" gunfire, according to ShotSpotter data, with many wounded or killed on this day in the U.S. due to celebratory shooting.
In Q4 2014 there were 16,597 incidents in ShotSpotter coverage areas, and of those, 3,556 (or 21.4%) took place during the New Year's Eve period. New Year's Eve (SST defines the New Year's Eve period as 24 hours prior to and 48 hours after New Year's Eve) is the busiest night of the year for illegal celebratory gunfire.
Other top cities using ShotSpotter and with significant reductions in celebratory gunfire on New Year's Eve include: Stockton, Calif., with 38.2 percent decline (from 136 to 84 incidents); Miami Gardens, Fla., with 37.5 percent decline (from 48 to 30 incidents); and Rocky Mount, NC, with a 19.3 percent decline (from 57 to 46 incidents).
To help communities and law enforcement curb celebratory gunfire, ShotSpotter launched an online celebratory gunfire prevention resource center http://www.shotspotter.com/celebratorygunfire with information and strategies to help combat illegal urban gunfire on New Year's Eve, along with a video, entitled Celebratory Gunfire Reduction Strategies, available here: http://www.shotspotter.com/system/content-uploads/Celebratory_Gunfire_Re...
Experts from ShotSpotter offer these five tips for law enforcement officials to help reduce celebratory gunfire on New Year's Eve:
  • Plan ahead - Do research weeks in advance to identify hot spot areas and address where celebratory gunfire was detected last year.
  • Engage agency personnel early - Communicate with your personnel along with probation/parole officers, and gang enforcement units.
  • Knock on doors - Assign uniformed agency personnel to visit each address on the hot spot list and talk with 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.
  • Enforce consequences of celebratory gunfire - Remind residents of the criminal consequences of celebratory gunfire. (SST recommends publicizing and enforcing a strict "no tolerance" policy on this activity and aggressive prosecution of the case.)
  • Assign special police units - During New Year's Eve period assign special police units, or overtime cars, to hot spot areas for quick response to gunfire alerts.
In addition to the five tips listed above, ShotSpotter advocates strong community engagement, including:
  • Broadly announce your agency's New Year's Eve proactive policing plan, using a combination of community meetings, notices, and social media.
  • Engage community and community leaders - Make them aware of the dangers of celebratory gunfire and encourage them to report all incidents.
  • Encourage media to report about the dangers of celebratory gunfire - Educate readers that law enforcement will take an active role to catch and prosecute celebratory gunfire offenders.
"We attribute the reported decline in celebratory gunfire to our analysis of ShotSpotter alerts, crime data and criminal intelligence which enables accurate deployment of sworn personnel to hot spot areas," said Captain Trent Hufnagel of the Springfield Police Department. "Additionally we enacted strict policies mandating an aggressive response to ensure prompt officer arrival. For every ShotSpotter activation we dispatch four units, of which, two are a supervisor and at least one detective to provide sufficient personnel to deal with any ongoing public safety threats and to promptly and properly investigate all activations."
ShotSpotter has found that when law enforcement agencies implement steps to curtail celebratory gunfire, they have been effective in reducing incidents. On New Year's Eve 2014, the Rocky Mount Police Department only had two incidents at previous identified locations from the 2012 and 2013 data. From these, they were able to get a confession and seized the firearm used during the incident.
"We used a collaborative effort approach and had a solid plan in place to help combat celebratory gunfire in advance of last year's New Year's Eve," said Lieutenant Ryan Hepler of the Rocky Mount Police Department. "An essential component to our success was having our patrol officers hand-deliver informational letters to residents of addresses that had gunfire alert(s) the previous New Year's Eve. We encouraged residents to come forward with any information early on."
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