Puerto Rico Police kick off ‘no shots in the air’ campaign for holiday season

Police commissioner: Island holds an 8-year streak without casualties due to stray bullets

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @PCorreaHenry

Special to The Star

“Enjoy life without stray bullets.”

That’s the slogan that the Puerto Rico Police Bureau (PRPB) chose to begin their annual campaign Tuesday calling on citizens to not fire guns into the air on Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve in order to prevent any tragic holiday incidents amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

PRPB Commissioner Henry Escalera said the campaign is being developed under Act 168 of 2019, the Puerto Rico Firearms Act, whereby public service announcements must be issued from Nov. 15 to Jan. 7 raising awareness on the matter. Although Escalera announced that there won’t be mass events such as flash mobs at malls, rallies or other activities due to the coronavirus pandemic emergency, he insisted that the PRPB will continue to do its best to keep the message going.

“Shooting into the air is a crime that carries a fixed sentence of five years [in jail] and up to 10 years aggravated,” he said, adding that the Bureau “will implement specific and detailed work strategies to prevent this and any other crime that intends to harm the welfare of our communities.”

Meanwhile, Escalera thanked community leaders, entrepreneurs, agency heads and media outlets, including salsa singer Michael Stuart, who is this year’s campaign sponsor, as “allies to carry the message to each home in Puerto Rico.”

The commissioner said citizens can cooperate in stopping such felonies by calling confidentially at 787-343-2020 to provide information on any random shooting incident.

“We don’t want any Puerto Rican family to go through the pain that the Negrón-Vélez family has gone through for years,” Escalera said, referring to the family that lost their 15-year-old daughter Karla Michelle Negrón Vélez to a stray bullet in 2011, which led her father Carlos Negrón to work annually with the police on the educational campaign.

Stuart said he wrote the song “Disfrutemos la vida,” which was produced with the Puerto Rico Police Band, “to bring a message to the people who are on the street bringing misfortune to families, who walk with weapons in their hands.”

“We are living in not so good days and they have hit us pretty hard. Imagine adding [shooting] bullets in the air, shootings like the ones we have been seeing these days. It is very difficult to get the message,” the singer said. “Therefore, this year we focused on those who are on the streets, looking for things they should not look for.”

Negrón meanwhile urged citizens to be wary amid the emergency that the island faces to make no exception that 2020 will be another year without stray bullet victims, as the last victim was his daughter.

“Let’s enjoy New Year’s Eve and Christmas giving grace in God’s name, not with stray bullets, not with families in a hospital with a victim like we were in 2011,” Negrón said. “We don’t want that for anyone.”

Public Safety Secretary Pedro Janer said this year’s campaign is different as it is happening amid a pandemic “that has caused profound pain to our people and changed our way of living.”

“When the year changes, we must unite with only one purpose, to remember those who fell and begin a new year hopeful, united and with the firm purpose to work so future generations grow up in a safer Puerto Rico,” Janer said.

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