Every Dec. 31, people ring in the new year in a number of ways: one too many glasses of Champagne, midnight kisses, party poppers, fireworks and, in some cases, by firing guns straight into the air. This year, as in the past, the Dallas Police Department asked revelers to refrain from celebratory gunfire because it's illegal, dangerous and punishable by a fine and jail time.
“The Dallas Police Department would like for everyone to have a safe and happy new year, but remember, public safety is our number one concern,” part of one email blast read. “Please do not fire a gun into the air to ring in the New Year because what goes up, must come down.”
Officers working on New Year's Eve see an increase in calls about family violence, random gunfire and fireworks disturbances, said Dallas Police Officer Carlos Almeida.
This year, between 10 p.m. New Year's Eve and 2 a.m. New Year's Day, DPD recorded 933 calls reporting random gunfire — 16 more than during the same period last New Year's Eve.
Celebratory Gunfire Safety: A single bullet fired in the air can come down at speeds up to 300 feet per second. The results could be property damage, serious bodily injuries and perhaps death. #NewYearsEveSafety #NYE @ChiefHallDPD pic.twitter.com/29NHUeqccj— Dallas Police Dept (@DallasPD) December 31, 2019
Such calls are hard for officers to respond to, because by the time the dispatched officer arrives, the gunfire has stopped, said Officer Tamika Dameron, a DPD spokeswoman.
Although officers take every call seriously, following up on the increase in gunfire and fireworks on New Year's Eve can be frustrating, Almeida said, because many of those calls pull officers away from situations where they could actually prevent a crime.
People caught and charged with celebratory gunfire can be fined up to $4,000 and spend up to one year in jail. If the bullet injures or kills someone when it comes down, the charges increase. Charges for deadly conduct are between two and 10 years in jail and up to a $10,000 fine, according to one DPD Beat email.
"When you fire that round from a weapon, and especially when you fire it into the air, you no longer have control over that round," Almeida said.
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Each time that happens, he worries that the bullet could damage property or come down and hurt or kill someone. Bullets descend after being fired at a velocity of up to 300 feet per second, according to a tweet from DPD.
And celebratory gunfire did turn deadly in Texas this year. As reported by CNN, a 61-year-old woman was killed in Houston, likely by a stray celebratory gunshot, according to Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez.
Although the number of random gunfire calls to DPD was higher this year, the department received fewer calls about fireworks, and between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., only three DUI arrests were made, according to Dameron.
All told, the department counted 1,151 calls about gunfire and fireworks in the four-hour period it monitored on New Year's.