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Stopping Random Gunfire in Phoenix

NCJ Number
THE POLICE CHIEF Volume: 77 Issue: 8 Dated: August 2010 Pages: 78,80,81
Tommy Thompson
Date Published
August 2010
3 pages
This article describes how the Phoenix Police Department (Arizona) effectively enforces a State law that makes it a felony for anyone "who with criminal negligence discharges a firearm within or into the limits of any municipality" in Arizona.
The law stemmed from an incident in June 1999 in which 14-year-old Shannon Smith was killed in her backyard from a bullet that was fired into the air over a mile away. Prior to the passage of "Shannon's Law" in 2000, it was only a misdemeanor to carelessly discharge a firearm in a city or town. In enforcing this law, the Phoenix Police Department used an approach that involved both an educational phase and an enforcement phase. This strategy has reduced random gunfire on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day by 64 percent over the last 7 years. The educational phase consists of several components. Working with a community group, the police launch the first part of the educational phase in September. Children in kindergarten through eighth grade are invited annually to participate in a "Stop Random Gunfire Poster/Billboard Contest." The winning poster is transformed into a billboard displayed in December in order to counter celebratory random gunfire over the New Year's holiday. Other educational components involve the creation and door-to-door distribution of flyers that warn against the dangers and consequences of violating Shannon's Law. Also, both printed and electronic media cover educational events and emphasize the dangers of random celebratory gunfire over the New Year's holiday. The educational phase transitions into the enforcement phase. As 12:00 midnight approaches, enforcement teams position themselves in assigned zones where they can observe violators and move in to arrest them. Over the past 7 years, there have been no officer-involved shootings in any of the enforcement efforts. 1 table and 2 notes


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