MESQUITE (CBSDFW.COM) - As 2021 quickly approaches officials in the City of Mesquite have a message for residents and visitors -- "We will make arrests, we will issue citations and we will be visible on New Year's Eve."
City leaders say the message is aimed at those who illegally shoot guns into the air, possess or use fireworks or decide to drive while intoxicated (DWI) on December 31.
The City is asking residents to call a new hotline at 972-204-4888 to report illegal fireworks and 911 to report gunfire, and provide the address where the offense is taking place.
City Manager Cliff Keheley said, "We are doubling down our efforts this year. We will have police officers assigned to geographic areas that are hotspots for fireworks and gunfire. We will have fire trucks drive through neighborhoods to increase our visibility. We will have a new phone bank staffed with City employees to take calls and help dispatch officers."
Leaders say time won't be on offenders side, because even if the reported violation can't be verified on New Year's Eve, the City plans to return within three days to the location of the alleged violation, make contact with the property owner and issue a citation if possible.
Keheley stresses the importance of residents providing an address when they call to report fireworks and gunfire or the location where the suspected impaired driver was last seen.
Mayor Bruce Archer said, "Our residents have become frustrated. We are going to address this unruly behavior that has no regard for the law or public safety. Illegal fireworks can cause serious harm to innocent people or their homes. Firing a gun into the air can kill someone. And it is mentally stressful to those with post-traumatic stress disorder and senior citizens to hear the loud bangs. We must continue to do more to address this behavior."
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that when fired into the air, bullets can return to the ground at speeds greater than 200 feet per second, a sufficient force to penetrate the human skull and cause serious injury or death. The National Fire Protection Agency indicates that more than 19,500 reported fires are started by fireworks annually.
Keheley said, "We will prosecute all offenders and seek the maximum penalty allowed by law on all suspects." The penalties for fireworks, gunfire and DWI in Mesquite can be costly.
- Up to $17,000 in fines, possible jail time and loss of a driver's license for drivers who get a DWI
- As much as $4,000 and the possibility of up to one year in jail for the illegal discharge of a firearm
- Up to $835 in City fines and court costs for the discharge of illegal fireworks
- Up to $585 in City fines and court costs for the possession of illegal fireworks.
To help convey the message of penalties, the City's Municipal Judge Detra Hill helped produce a video PSA (seen above) called "Celebrate Safely – No Gunfire, No Fireworks, and No DWI - Rockin' Eve Party." In the parody video of televised New Year's Eve TV shows, Judge Hill invites violators to her courtroom for a "party." In the video she says, "It will be fun for everyone. There will be citations and penalties for every attendee. My special guests may even get a surprise of some jail time."
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