New Year’s Eve is always a big celebration, but it isn’t always celebrated in a safe, smart way; every year, celebratory gunfire hurts people on New Year’s Eve, even in Southwest Florida.
In only seconds, innocent people’s lives are changed forever, and it’s easily preventable. Capt. Shawn Yates with the Fort Myers Police Department tells WINK News all hands will be on deck to mitigate the problem, saying that if anyone does fire a gun illegally, they will be caught.
Yates says FMPD uses Shot Spotter detection and citywide cameras to catch those firing illegal shots in Fort Myers. FMPD started using this technology in 2018, and on one New Year’s Eve alone police caught 175 gunfire incidents. That was the year a stray bullet from celebratory gunfire injured a Fort Myers EMS worker.
Last New Year’s Eve, FMPD had around 50 gunfire reports, so progress is evidently being made in reducing the number of incidents. On New Year’s Day, Yates says police will go back to the areas where the Shot Spotter detected gunfire, look at the location and follow up by sending officers out to houses to talk to people in the community.
People watching a fireworks show. Credit: WINK News
“This is very dangerous activity, and don’t do it, specifically on that night for New Year’s when we do this,” Yates said. “We have a specific group of officers who physically respond, dedicated just to gunfire incidents, so we look at our Shot Spotter technology and immediately respond to those, trying to stop or prevent that from occurring or hold people accountable that are actually doing that. It’s against the law to fire a gun openly in public.”
Officers say if you fire a gun illegally, you could face a misdemeanor or even a felony charge, and charges can increase if someone is injured.
“Don’t do it; it’s that simple,” Yates said. “Somebody could be hurt; it could be a small child, be a family member… bullets come up, and they leave the guns very fast and come down very fast, and that bullet coming down and hitting someone could end their life, just ’cause you wanna celebrate the New Year. It’s not worth someone’s life.”
Have fun bidding 2022 farewell this New Year’s Eve, but consider your neighbors’ safety and your own.