Police discourage New Years gunfire Dangerous tradition: Stray bullets could be fatal, officials say. - Brownsville Herald: Local News

Police discourage New Years gunfire Dangerous tradition: Stray bullets could be fatal, officials say.

Posted: Saturday, December 28, 2002 12:00 am

By J. NOEL ESPINOZA

The Brownsville Herald

Starting the New Year with a bang could result in jail time, according to

local law enforcement officials.

Firing weapons in the air an annual tradition for some on New Years Eve

is not only illegal, but also potentially fatal to those nearby.

Brownsville police officials said stray bullets could hurt or kill someone

before hitting the ground.

Were going to have a special detail unit working to detect illegal

firecrackers and gunfire, said Cmdr. Abraham Delgado, a Brownsville police

spokesman. We want to send a message to the community that gunfire would not

be tolerated in Brownsville.

According to Delgado, researchers report that a bullet fired into the air

climbs up to 2 miles and reaches a velocity of 700 feet per second. A bullet

traveling 200 feet per second can penetrate the human skull, he said.

We want to educate the public about the dangers of New Years Eve gunfire,

Delgado said. We want to reduce the threat to the community from those

individuals who want to celebrate with gunfire.

The New Years gunfire can carry a heavy penalty. Delgado said people caught

firing guns will be prosecuted, and heavier consequences will apply if the

stray bullets cause injury.

A lot of people dont know that what goes up must come down, Delgado said.

If a stray bullet kills somebody that person will be charged with murder.

Although catching revelers discharging weapons is difficult, a Cameron County

Sheriffs Department official said calls from witnesses and anonymous tips

help keep the city safe.

Discharging weapons is a safety issue, Capt. Rumaldo Rodriguez said. There

have been reports that stray bullets have killed or injured people when they

come down.

Rodriguez said his father, who lives in a rural area, had a bad experience

with a stray bullet.

The stray bullet came down the roof, the ceiling, and down to the floor,

Rodriguez said. We ask the public not to use their weapons to welcome the New

Year. Its a matter of safety and common sense.

In the past few years, officials on both sides of the border have tried to

reduce the threat of discharging weapons to welcome the New Year.

But their efforts have not eliminated the problem.

We see it every year starting on Christmas Day, said Nat Trejo, emergency

medical services interim director in Brownsville. (Some) people have the

tendency to think its fun. Some think its a tradition, men shooting guns to

celebrate the festivities.

Even kids are doing it. We need to get rid of that. Its not a good

tradition.

In Matamoros, where discharging weapons is a big problem, officials are

promoting a theme to discourage the dangerous habit.

Abrazos No Balazos, which roughly translates into Hugs Not Gunfire, has

been implemented by the city, law enforcement agencies and private businesses.

Its a bad habit in Mexico, said Jesus Herrera, a Matamoros police official.

We have seen people hurt or even killed. We hope to change the attitude in

order to avoid tragedies.