As families begin to prepare for festive New Year’s Eve parties and watching fireworks over the harbor, V.I. Police Department officials are gearing up to patrol hot spot neighborhoods across the territory in anticipation of the traditional storm of gunfire that follows at midnight.
A few days ago, VIPD issued a statement warning legal gun owners and individuals toting illegal firearms about firing shots on New Year’s Eve and said that those caught doing so will have their guns revoked and be arrested. The V.I. Code prohibits anyone from discharging shots other than in times of self-defense or while on official duty.
“Most definitely there will be patrols going around, especially in the hot spot areas that we know are accustomed to having this kind of celebratory gunfire activity,” police spokeswoman Sakeeda Freeman said Saturday afternoon.
Charges for individuals found discharging shots illegally can range from reckless endangerment to the confiscation of a deadly weapon, she added.
“In many cases, they are going to fire shots regardless,” Freeman said. “But the goal of VIPD is to actually catch these individuals and make sure they are dealt with accordingly.”
Freeman explained that in advance of New Year’s Eve, local authorities have been keeping up on ballistics reports generated by VIPD’s SpotShotter software system, which shows where shots have been fired, how many and at what time.
“Each zone has a different area that the SpotShotter technology reports on, so the department knows where the heavy shots usually come from,” Freeman said. “We also check the reports after midnight to see where the hot spot areas were.”
Freeman added that VIPD has also been proactive in partnering with the local housing communities in an effort to help residents understand that the New Year’s gunfire is illegal.
“We’re going to do our part,” she said. “And we’re going to be patrolling for sure, but if there is any information that anyone can help with, we’re asking that it be called in to the police.”
Police are asking residents who know anyone in possession of an unauthorized firearm or discharging a firearm to call the Criminal Investigation Bureau at 340-778-2211 on St. Croix, 340-774-2211 on St. Thomas, or 911.