Each month, the Advocate visits with Sgt. Jim Little, Sr. Cpl. Rick Janich and Officers T.X. “Tri” Ngo and Wes Stout of the East Dallas Police Storefront, 1327 N. Peak (670-5514). The Storefront is best known for its bicycle-patrol officers, who pedal the streets of East Dallas weekdays. The City of Dallas funds the Storefront, but numerous volunteers and organizations support the program. (Editor’s note: Sgt. Little and Officer Stout did not participate in this month’s lunch.)
Rick: Since New Year’s Eve is coming up, I think we should talk about people shooting off their guns at midnight. People don’t realize how dangerous this really is.
Tri: Those bullets came down somewhere. And they come down somewhere. And they could injure or kill somebody.
Rick: In some of the neighborhoods, this is really a problem.
Tri: You should see the call sheet (police log of activity) on New Year’s Eve. There are usually 30 or 40 calls holding (waiting for an officer to respond) just about gun shots.
Rick: I’ve never heard of an incident where someone was hit by a falling shell, but it’s going to happen somewhere, sometime.
Advocate: What you’re saying is probably true, but this seems like a problem that just isn’t going to change. For some reason, some people just like to shoot their guns off that night, and it’s hard to see that changing.
Rick: There are no cultural or economic barriers to this problem. It happened when I worked in North Dallas. I walked up to an apartment once up there, and there were five empty shells in front of the door. So I knocked on the door, and the woman who answered told me no one had been shooting a gun there. So I showed her the shells, and then she admitted: Well, I guess the party did get a little out of control.
I mean, people don’t seem to understand that it’s illegal to shoot a firearm in the City limits. That’s why we want residents to call us when they hear gunfire, so we can check it out.
Advocate: Once you do show up, how do you know where to find the gunmen? I mean, how far away can someone really hear a gunshot? And what can you do if you catch someone?
Tri: It could be within blocks. It’s usually pretty close. If we show up at a party and it (the shooting) is all over, we can’t do anything about it.
Rick: It just takes time out from an officer’s time to find out, and that keeps us from going somewhere else. We want people to call us, and we want to check out every call because we really don’t know how serious the problem may be until we arrive. We want people to report it to make sure no one is really shot.
Advocate: Maybe I’m missing something in my New Year’s Eve celebration, but how much fun can it really be to go outside and start shooting a gun into the air?
Tri: Some people do it, so I guess it must be fun. I used to live here in East Dallas, and I heard a lot of gun shots on New Year’s.
Advocate: Of course, this whole thing gets back to the merit of having a gun around the house. I know a lot of people who I wouldn’t normally suspect as gun owners carry a loaded gun in their car or their purse or under their bed.
Tri: If you think about it, do you carry a gun around for protection on the street? If someone pulls a gun on you, what are you going to do: Reach in and pull your gun on them? I don’t think so, at least, it wouldn’t be a good idea to draw a gun on someone already pointing one at you.
Rick: The whole thing with a gun in this state is that they’re legal to protect yourself in your house. That’s what the law is for – to protect yourself, your house, your property, your family. You can have a gun in the house to do that. The problem with most people (who own and carry around guns) is that most are not proficient with a gun. That’s the big problem.
Advocate: Now, a lot of these same people will tell you that a police officer told them if they wanted to protect themselves, they should get a gun.
Rick: But again, that’s for protecting yourself in your home. But if you don’t know how to use a weapon, or aren’t willing to use it, how much protection is it going to provide?
I work at MJDesigns during the holidays as extra security (as a second job), and a girl came up to me the other day with a can of mace and said: My daddy gave me this to protect myself. She felt pretty secure.
I asked her: Do you know how to use it or what it would do to someone? She said: No.
I mean, the mace could just as easily be used against her, and if she doesn’t even know how to use it or what it will do to someone, how safe should she really feel?
Tri: A lot of people carrying guns around have what I think is a false sense of security. They should be afraid in a situation, but because they have a gun, they aren’t. They’ll even go into areas or get into situations they wouldn’t normally become involved in just because they are carrying a gun.
I give a lot of crime prevention programs, and that’s the first thing people tell me: If I (a citizen) have a gun, then I can stop a car-jacking. I mean, give a car-jacker your car – the insurance company is going to pay for it. The car-jacker isn’t going to be patient while you pull out your gun or reach for the mace on your key chain. But these things give people a false sense of security.
Rick: Another problem is that people carrying guns usually won’t go out and (practice) shoot on a regular basis. And maintenance: You have to regularly maintain a weapon. It’s not like on TV, where you just pull the trigger and shoot someone and bang, it’s over.
We (Dallas police officers) fire our guns at least twice a year, just to check the gun and the ammunition. We clean them on the outside once a day, because rustd an perspiration – even on the outside – will affect the operation. And just think if you carry one around in a purse all day, what with all of the stuff in a purse. If a gun gets dirty, it won’t always fire. And if you pull it out in a situation and then it doesn’t work, what are you going to do?
There’s also the emotional trauma. There are officers on the (police) force right now who still have nightmares over using deadly force. And we’re all around guns all of the time.
Advocate: One last question: The Advocate is asking people this month what they’d like to see changed in the City in 1993, and what they’re going to do about it. Any thoughts?
Rick: You’re going to see higher visibility from the bike patrol starting next year. We’re going to work on a lot more of the problems in the neighborhoods, crack houses and prostitution and all of that, provided we get information from the neighborhood residents.
We’ve all got to work harder on the neighborhood problems so that we can do our best to get ride of them.
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