CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif. - After years of problems with celebratory gunfire, especially on New Year's Eve, the Cathedral City Police Department has noticed a great decline in people shooting guns in the air, because of some new tactics officers are using.
Two Cathedral City men were arrested on Tuesday night after neighbors heard gunfire coming near their area. Police arrested the men, who both had prior felonies, for firing rife rounds in the sky. It's not uncommon to hear gunfire on New Year's Eve all around the Coachella Valley. Some residents in Cathedral City have even come to expect it. " shoot them up in the air," said Michael Reinert. "They've (the bullets) got to go somewhere, so yeah, it's frightening."
Reinert's not even done putting up his Christmas lights yet, and he's having to worry about what December 31 will be like. He's not alone, the illegal celebration's become a real concern for the Cathedral City police department. "It is terribly dangerous when you're in a residential area, densely populated area and mixed with alcohol," said Lieutenant Glen Haas. "It just makes it that much worse."
Five years ago, Lt. Haas and the department made a resolution to silence the gunfire. They changed their approach, tripling patrols for one night and using audio and visual technology to find shooters. "Taking the attitude of going out and actively looking for these people, and saturating the neighborhoods, maybe bringing things in to identify the shooters, or the location of where the shot's coming from," said Lt. Haas.
Since changing its methods, the department's seen a real drop in incidents of celebratory shooting. Lt. Haas says officers have made arrests, taken guns off the street and made things a lot quieter on New Year's Eve. The increased police presence is also giving residents a bigger sense of security. "When there's more black and whites around, driving around, it definitely is a lot better," said Delbert Mares.
Lt. Haas gives this warning to anyone thinking about pulling the trigger once the clock strikes midnight. "There's no lengths we won't go to if we find the house, to write the search warrant, recover the weapon and arrest the people," said Haas. "It's not worth it."