Police readying for increased 'shots fired' calls across Tampa Bay on 4th of July

Posted at 11:02 PM, Jul 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-03 23:17:13-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Bright, loud pops paint the sky like a colorful canvas on the Fourth of July. 

And every year, the innocent crack of fireworks is often mistaken for gunshots. 

"Absolutely it's going to require more time, more resources," said Danny Alvarez with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. 

According to the calls for service in Hillsborough County, 10 people alerted deputies to hearing possible gunshots on July 4 in 2017. Additionally, ShotSpotter, technology that detects the sound of gunfire, registered 9 incidents that same night. 

"Will some be maybe a report that was misunderstood to be a firework instead of a gun, yeah, that's going to happen," said Alvarez. But we don't have that luxury, we're going to go investigate each and every one."

In St. Petersburg, police there historically respond to an average of 20 reports of "shots heard" on the night of America's loudest holiday. That breaks down to a week's worth of calls in a single night. 

The owner of Tampa's Shooting Sports says it's nearly impossible to tell the difference between firework and gunshot. 

"Especially in an environment like we are here in a neighborhood, you have trees and shrubbery," said Fred Flesche. "That's going to tend to mute some of the sound."

Like gunshots, the sound of a firework depends on the size and type. But according to gun experts, a whizzing bullet often carries a longer echo. 

"We want to make sure everyone stays really safe so if someone's concerned about it and they think it rises to the level of calling 911," said Alvarez. "You never know, you might save a life."