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Garland residents express concern over gunfire 


Three Orchard Hills residents addressed Mayor Athas and the City Council members at the Jan.3 meeting to express concern about a growing number of gunfire incidents in the Orchard Hills neighborhood. They indicated that it was no longer happening on holidays only. It also happens every weekend.


“I’ve lived in the [Orchard Hills] neighborhood for about 40 years and we’ve never had problems like this before,” one speaker said.


Shooting a gun into the air is illegal, but that doesn’t stop some people from celebrating with gunfire. The celebration can be anything from a major holiday to a family party.


One New Year’s Eve gunshot victim was Rep. Armando Martinez, D-Weslaco, who was inside a home near Weslaco, Texas when he felt like he had been hit in the head with a sledgehammer. He later had surgery to remove the bullet. Police have no suspects.


The number of gunshot disturbance calls to the Garland Police Department rose from 1,172 in 2015 to 1,408 in 2016. (These numbers include cancelled calls.) Public Information Officer Pedro Barineau believes that the increase from 2015 to 2016 could be due to more residents reporting the shots.


“One of the things we are trying to push in Garland is community policing where we work in partnership with our crime watch groups and residents to try to get people more engaged in reporting suspicious activity and crimes,” he said.


He added that GPD is emphasizing the importance of “If you see something, if you hear something, say something.”


“We want to go out and find criminals and we can find many more with the assistance of residents,” Barineau said. “We can’t solve a problem unless we know about it.”


“For some reason some people feel the need to pull out guns and shoot them into the air not realizing how dangerous it is,” Barineau said. “If you shoot something up, it will definitely come down. It may land on nothing, but it could land on someone’s property or even kill somebody.”


A bullet can penetrate the roofs of houses and cars. It goes up high and will come back down at a faster velocity than it went up. So, it will penetrate hard surfaces.


At the least, someone who shoots a gun up in the air is facing a charge of discharge of a firearm in cities with populations over 100,000. That is the minimum charge and the punishment could be jail time, probation or fines. They could be charged with manslaughter if they shoot into the air and the bullet comes down and kills someone.


“Unless you are protecting yourself or your family, there’s no need to pull out a gun and shoot it,” Barineau said.


He believes that the community must be educated on gun laws and on the dangers of shooting a gun.


“The people who shoot into the air are celebrating something. They usually aren’t criminals. They don’t want to hurt anyone,” Barineau said. “They don’t think about the consequences.”


If you hear gunfire, call 911 and provide the most specific information possible. If it is a neighbor, do not confront them. Let the police handle it. Do not feel like it isn’t necessary to call because you think the police won’t find them.


“We can do our job so much better in partnership with the community,” Barineau said. “Don’t hesitate. Pick up the phone and call.”