DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — The Durham Police Department is warning residents that “celebratory” gunfire is illegal and dangerous, and could result in injury or death to those struck, and jail time for offenders.

Celebratory gunfire is a common problem during the holidays, particularly on New Year’s Eve, the department said.

It often has tragic results when people are hit by stray bullets and are injured or killed. Bullets discharged from a gun, even into the sky, must land somewhere, and when they do, the risk of injury or death is significant.

“New Year’s Eve should be a time of celebration but, unfortunately, reckless behavior can negatively impact many lives, anyone caught discharging a firearm in city limits will be arrested and subject to prosecution to the full extent of the law,” said Durham Police Chief Patrice V. Andrews. “Please take personal responsibility to help make this a safe holiday for everyone.”

Over the past couple of years, celebratory gunfire has claimed the lives of two seniors.

On July 4, 2020, 74-year-old Paulette Thorpe was shot and killed by celebratory gunfire when visiting a friend on Burlington Avenue. 

A little more than one year later, 73-year-old Delores Burwell was shot and killed by celebratory gunfire while outside of a friend’s home on Robinhood Road on Dec. 31, 2021. 

Officers will be patrolling throughout the city to maintain the peace, prevent crime, and to make sure everyone brings in the New Year in a safe manner.

The community is encouraged to call 9-1-1 to report gunfire, along with any other suspicious or criminal activity they see occurring.

Callers should provide an exact location and physical description of suspects and/or vehicles, along with license plate information, if it can be done safely.

If you’re hosting a celebration or attending one, consider the following safety tips: 

  • Plan ahead by naming a “designated driver” before any drinking begins 
  • Serve non-alcoholic beverages as an option to your guests 
  • Remember that drinking lowers inhibitions and may cause you to make poor decisions 
  • If you do drink, call a taxi, use public transportation, or ask a sober friend or family member to drive you home 
  • Trust your instincts and recognize warning signs 
  • While out, be careful what you post online; don’t alert others that you are not at home and your house is vulnerable to burglary 
  • Report drunk drivers, Call 9-1-1