BURLINGTON, N.C. – A strange but true request from police in Burlington: They’re asking people to report gunshots into homes immediately rather than waiting or never reporting the incidents.
“Often times we get these incidents and the officers hear the gunshots, but many times we don't even get a phone call from the community,” said Assistant Chief Chris Verdeck of the Burlington Police Department. “We don’t know where to go.”
Verdeck said over the past several weeks, the department has seen an increase in the number of gun shots fired into homes. No one has been hit by the bullets, but Verdeck said nationwide families have lost children and innocent people have been killed by bullets that miss their targets.
The Burlington Police Department is so concerned by the rising number of incidents and that they’ve started going door to door in neighborhoods that have seen these kinds of crimes to encourage people to report the crimes so police can catch those responsible. They’ve also asked neighbors to be on the lookout for suspicious activity.
“Cars riding by real slow, looking closely at a house without stopping and then later coming back,” said Verdeck. “If people heard gunshots they should call police.”
Verdeck said police couldn’t pinpoint one specific reason for the gunplay, but said that many times they catch young people responsible for these shootings with little idea of how deadly their actions can be.
“We've had murders in the past, shootings in the past because someone looked at someone else's girlfriend,” said Verdeck. “It's silliness like that getting people killed.”
Burlington is a city traditionally plagued by crimes committed by the young. The North Carolina Department of Public Safety’s 2015 Juvenile Crime Prevention Council Report showed that Alamance County is home to 1,128 youths who have either already been through the juvenile justice system or are at risk to do so. That number is the third highest number out of all North Carolina counties.
One hurdle the police department faces is a community that has tolerated incidents like this for too long.
Robert Miles had his home shot at in July. He said his neighbor’s home was the target but one bullet came through his living room window and nearly into the same room in which his son was sleeping on the couch.
No one in the Miles home was hurt, but at 77, he said he’s more likely to fight back than call police for help.
“There's good and bad, I've learned to peacefully coexist with everybody here, you know I don't bother you, you don't bother me,” said Miles.
Miles said he never drew his weapon back in July. By the time he stepped outside, police were already on his street. He doesn’t think those shooters will be back but if they do he’ll be ready.
“If that's the way you want to play, that's the way we'll play,” said Miles.