Posted on Tuesday, 06.29.10
Miami targets `celebratory' holiday gunshots
Authorities in Miami launched a campaign intended to reduce the dangerous barrages of bullets traditionally fired into the air to celebrate holidays.
BY MELISSA SANCHEZ
As the Fourth of July approaches, authorities have an urgent message to share with the public: One bullet kills the party. Officials are trying to avoid a repeat of the ``celebratory'' shooting that injured a little boy on New Year's Eve.
``We are pleading to the community, as we get closer to Independence Day weekend, let's not shoot stray bullets,'' Miami City Commissioner Richard P. Dunn said Monday. The commissioner and a few dozen other city and county officials gathered at the Sherdavia Jenkins Peace Park in Liberty City to launch a public awareness campaign against firing gun shots into the air during celebrations. It was a fitting location for the announcement.
The park -- at the corner of NW 12th Avenue and 62nd Street -- faces the Liberty Square housing project where 9-year-old Sherdavia Jenkins died while playing in her front yard during a drive-by shooting almost exactly four years ago. Her unintended death shook the city and led to the creation of the park. But it hasn't stopped the stray bullets from hurting innocent children. In December, an Italian boy visiting Miami with his family on vacation was injured by a bullet shot into the air during a New Year's Eve celebration.
And in May, two boys were injured just blocks from the park in a drive-by shooting.
Although violent crime has fallen this year, officers can do little to curb celebratory gunfire, ``short of putting a police officer in your backyard and front porch,'' said Miami Police Chief Miguel Exposito. ``We can ask the community to come forward whenever they see someone who is inolved with gunfire,'' Exposito said. ``Bullets that go up have to come down, and they sometimes come down on people.'' The department does not track celebratory gunfire injuries or deaths, said spokesman Delrish Moss.
There have been fewer incidents over the eyars, but ``still not at a level where I'd feel safe after midnight on New Year's Eve or on the Fourth of July,'' Moss said.
``This started a long, long, long, long, long time ago,'' he said. ``What's changed is that now we're so tightly packed that you have injuries -- that's what's sparked us standing up and saying something about it [. . .]
``When you take these battlefield weapons and you start firing, when you bring them into a celebration, what you'll have is just a pool of tears. Guns are not meant for celebrations.''
The campaign -- which features rapper Pitbill and the slogan ``One Bullet Kills the Party'' -- will be plastered across 10 billboards and bus benches in the city between now and July 4.
There will be about 200 public service announcements on Comcast and radio stations, and educational posters distributed in the city.
Patricia Maldonado, chairwoman of the city's community relations board, said she hopes young people respond to the advertisements featuring Pitbull.
``He is someone that really resonates with younger people,'' she said.
In December, the campaign will start again in preparation for New Year's Eve celebrations, said Maritza Gutiérrez, who owns Creative Ideas Advertising and volunteered to head the project. ``It kicks off today and it's going to be non-stop,'' she said.
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