Gunshots that leave no victims but trigger fear

The sounds of bullets flying that were heard last week near Echo Park Avenue and Avalon Street ended in a familiar way – not with a bleeding body but a mystery. Police arrived at the scene of the Echo Park shooting last Tuesday night to find only bullet shell casings but no victims or suspects. It was another case of “shots fired,” a crime that does not necessarily leave anyone dead or wounded but does trigger fear and worry among residents. A few days earlier, another Echo Park resident reported hearing more shots that also apparently caused no injuries:
“Heard semi automatic gunfire – on what was probably Echo Park Blvd
somewhere between Duane and Baxter. One blast – not answered but no helicopters, no screaming and the police came sometime later. I did not see anything on the blog.”

Are shots fired just random acts of violence or signs of a brewing gang war? Police say they take reports of shots fired seriously but concede it’s hard to say what’s behind gunshots heard at night. “They can be a sign of a gang problem. However, the fact someone is foolish enough to fire a gun in a residential area is unfortunately universal,” said Lt. Wes Buhrmester with the Rampart Division. “They happen city-wide, even in areas not known for gang membership.”

So far this year, the LAPD has logged 892 reports of shots fired through April 17, according to the most crime figures. The number of shots fired is probably higher than what’s included in the department statistics. “A lot of times it goes unreported,” said LAPD spokeswoman April Harding.

While reports of shots fired may not involve a victim – or even an intended target – the very act of shooting a gun in the City of Los Angeles is almost always a crime. In fact, under the city’s Municipal Code, “no person shall fire, shoot or discharge” a firearm without first getting a permit from the city’s police commission, which is probably a step most shooters skip.

Sgt. Vince Aguirre with the LAPD Northeast Division said taking the time to call and report shots fired – even if there is no victim – can be of value to police, helping identify potential trouble spots and even serve as “time stamps” as to when crime occurs in certain areas.

Buhrmester adds that bullet casings recovered at the scene – like the ones at near Echo Park Avenue and Avalon Street – can also yield valuable information. “Even if the suspects are gone at the time, recovered casings can be matched to a firearm for later prosecution, especially if the gun was used elsewhere. ” We have made several cases by using this analysis.”

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