Mark Blackburn celebrated the fourth of July the old-fashioned way.
He watched fireworks with his wife and kids, a 3-year-old daughter and 9-month old son.
The Blackburns also dealt with what has become a less happy tradition in their neighborhood - celebratory gunfire.
The family lives in Morningside Park, where – according to Blackburn – gunfire can be heard every Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve. This year, his wife found a bullet that had pierced the back windshield of the family’s car parked in their driveway after she and the children walked home from a fireworks show,
“The windshield was completely shattered,” Blackburn said. “I found bullet fragments in the back.”
It took police nearly five hours to respond and officers told him a team would take photos and collect the bullet fragments, but no one ever showed up.
“A lot of young families live in this area,” Blackburn said. “We don’t get the police patrol we’re entitled to. I’m not the type of person who calls [police] about everything. I’m genuinely concerned.”
Miami Police was not notified of any serious incidents on July Fourth, said detective Willie Moreno, the office on duty for the holiday.
Moreno said response times often depend on the severity of the crime, as well as availability of officers. Emergencies and gunshots leading to injuries are a higher priority, he said.
“Shooting guns in public is against state law, so we take that matter very seriously,” Moreno said. “But without looking at stats, with the rallies we’ve held in the neighborhood about stray bullets, we have definitely seen a decrease in those types of incidents.”
Moreno’s thoughts were echoed by other South Florida police departments.
Hialeah had “no incidents of damage to any property or person” on July Fourth, said spokesman Carl Zogby.
“I live here and I don’t hear the shots anymore,” Zogby said. “We’ve seen a decline. I definitely think it’s gotten a lot better.”
Miami-Dade Police responded to calls of shootings on July 4, but nothing related to celebratory gunfire, according to Detective Alvaro Zabaleta.
For Blackburn, the issue still hits close to home, literally.
“Without question, on July 4 or New Year’s, I find bullet casings near my house, at the park or at the basketball court,” he said. “Thank God my wife and kids are OK.”