MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The Montgomery City Council’s chamber was full Monday night for its regularly scheduled meeting. Dozens of residents from neighborhoods around the city attended to voice their frustrations and support their neighbors who were concerned about the number of celebratory gunshots that were fired on New Years Eve night and the early hours of New Years Day. The city reported 174 calls from the holiday concerning gunfire.
Mayor Todd Strange said he had conversations with mayors in Birmingham and Hunstville, and he said they reported similar issues.
On Monday, Strange announced he plans to ask the city council and the city’s attorney to draft an ordinance that would make celebratory gunfire a misdemeanor crime with a maximum fine of $500 and mandatory jail time.
Montgomery Police Chief Earnest Finley joined the mayor for his remarks at Monday’s meetings. Chief Finley said MPD plans to put out extra patrols for the Fourth of July holiday and next New Years Eve in 11 areas where MPD has identified a high volume of gunfire.
“These will be eight-hour details,” said Finley. “Those officers will be expected to turn on their blue lights the whole time that they’re there. We don’t want any surprises. We want to prevent this stuff as much as possible. If we see something, we will make arrests as quickly as possible.”
Councilman Glen Pruitt expressed concerns to the mayor that MPD does not have enough police officers. However, the mayor rebutted by saying he does not believe more officers would prevent residents from firing celebratory gunshots on their own property.
However, many meeting attendees agreed with Pruitt’s concerns.
“The volume of available police officers does concern me,” said resident Mary Catherine Phillips.
Strange also discussed the difficulty of recruiting and retaining police officers. He said Finley is working to bring more officers on the force. In the meantime, he said the city is additionally working on an effort to maximize the use of cameras around Montgomery by February.
“We’re going to be able to have the opportunity to be able to control every camera in the city of Montgomery, whether it’s a public or private camera,” said Strange.
Finley said about a week before the holidays when MPD plans to beef up patrols, the department will roll out a campaign warning people about the dangerous risks of celebratory gunfire.