The V.I. Police Department on Monday warned the public that celebratory gunfire – firing guns into the air to celebrate the New Year – is illegal and officers will be using a high-tech assistant to be on the lookout for it Thursday night.
The practice is not only illegal but also extremely dangerous, the police said in a statement released Monday.
"The consequences and risks of celebratory gunfire can be significant and serious," Monday’s news release said. "The intention may be a celebratory shot toward the sky, but the consequences of that moment can be disastrous for a neighbor or someone blocks away," the VIPD said.
"What goes up, must come down."
The VIPD uses a software program called ShotSpotter, which provides law enforcement with real-time coordinates to the source of gunfire discharged within particular dense population areas throughout the territory. Overview maps of St. Thomas and St. Croix show exactly where gunfire was discharged on New Year’s Eve 2014.
During the upcoming holiday period, the police department will deploy patrol officers in specific areas of the territory that have the highest amount of illegal gun activity as recorded by ShotSpotter on New Year’s Eve last year. Officers will respond to all ShotSpotter activations throughout the islands, and particularly in those high-concentration areas, and will arrest anyone caught discharging a firearm in public.
The VIPD said it is committed to a policy of zero tolerance of illegal gun use.
"Our mission is to protect the quality of life for all residents throughout our community by creating an environment of enhanced safety and security," the police said.
Officers also will be deployed throughout the territory to maintain the peace, prevent crime and violence, and arrest drunken drivers.
The police urged anyone who knows or sees a person discharging celebratory gunfire to call 911 immediately.