Roman Forest PD cracks down on illegal firearm use
A zero tolerance policy for illegal gunfire, illegal hunting and the illegal use of all-terrain vehicles and utility task vehicles has been issued by Roman Forest Police Chief Stephen Carlisle, which he discussed during the Roman Forest City Council regular meeting at City Hall Nov. 21.
“Due to all the gunfire, bullets and recent complaints about bullets hitting houses, I had a meeting with all the officers (Nov. 16) and issued a zero tolerance policy,” Carlisle said.
The recreational firing of guns is a sound that is too familiar for some Roman Forest residents, especially during hunting season and on the weekends.
The sound came too close to a group of Roman Forest police officers while at a traffic stop on Roman Forest Boulevard the weekend of Nov. 19. The group included Carlisle, who only a week earlier had experienced a stray bullet rain down on his own home in Roman Forest.
Other than the fact that a shot was believed to be fired in the officer’s direction, little has been confirmed about the circumstances surrounding the incident at the traffic stop in regards to the perpetrator or intent. Even though it is not believed actions were taken with the intent of harm, instances of illegal, reckless gunfire have resulted in several cases of stray bullets causing damage in Roman Forest over the past five years.
According to Carlisle, in 2011, a bullet was recovered from the roof of a house across the street from Carlisle.
In 2012, a stray bullet fell from the sky, breaking the window of a house on Roman Forest Boulevard.
In 2013, an AK round bullet was found in a car windshield across the street from the mayor’s house.
In 2014, the wife of a city councilman was getting out of her car when shotgun pellets fell onto the garage of their house, which borders Kings Colony.
In 2015, a bicyclist reported receiving an injury while on Galaxy Boulevard and claimed the cause was a bullet ricochet.
These are just a few of the incidents reported since 2011. This does not even include the reports of gunfire that did not lead to an incident.
According to Carlisle, the illegal gunfire and hunting is primarily occurring in the nearby neighborhood Kings Colony, the undeveloped section of Woodway Drive and sections 3, 4, 5 and 6 of Roman Forest.
“It has gotten worse within the past six months,” Carlisle said. “It gets worse during hunting season. Right now, shots can be heard multiple times daily. It’s not just from hunting; it’s people having fun and shooting guns irresponsibly. Outside of hunting season, we have a problem in Kings Colony where the lot owners think they’re in the country and they’ll start shooting up into the air for fun or for target practice. That usually happens on the weekends.”
Carlisle has been researching and working with local authorities to determine the best methods of addressing the misusing of firearms in the area.
The decision to include ATVs and UTVs in the zero tolerance policy was made due to a perceived correlation between ATV misuse and firearm misuse in the area.
With the zero tolerance policy in place, officers have been ordered to charge anyone with a crime if they illegally use a firearm, illegally hunt or illegally ride an ATV or side-by-side.
Carlisle stated that enforcement would include and is not limited to riding an ATV on a road, creek or land where not permitted; hunting where not permitted or on a land property of less than 10 acres; unlawful carry; hunting at night; noise disturbances or disorderly conduct; and several others depending on the circumstances.
“There are a bunch of different charges we can use depending on the situation,” Carlisle said. “Some of these things are arrests and some are citations. Ordinances are citations, but trespassing is state law and you can go to jail for that. If you’re shooting over a property line, then that’s a citation. If you’re shooting over a road or in the direction of a house or you are pointing the gun at a person; that’s deadly conduct, which is arrest-able. If you’re shooting up in the air; you’re shooting over a road. That’s an arrestable charge and is considered deadly conduct.”
Additionally, anyone found illegally hunting or shooting will have their gun seized.
“I’m a gun advocate,” Carlisle said. “I think people should be armed. But if they’re using it to shoot it up into the air; they don’t need it.”
The city of Roman Forest ordinance regarding utility vehicles can be found at http://www.cityofromanforest.org/ordinance_314.pdf.
Roman Forest adheres to the Montgomery County ordinance concerning the discharge of firearms which can be accessed at http://www.mctx.org/dept/departments_c/county_attorney/docs/Discharge_of_Firearms.pdf.
Laws concerning hunting practices, among others, can be found at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department website: http://tpwd.texas.gov/warden/codes.
Carlisle’s next step is to focus on finding the individuals responsible for the gunfire, which he stated will require the cooperation of citizens.
“I’m trying to find this gunfire,” Carlisle said. “We’re going to rely on the public to tell us where this is happening. I need a list of addresses of the people that are normally shooting and then we will visit these addresses from time to time.”
Carlisle stated that often, residents are unwilling to turn in the individuals responsible for the illegal gunfire even with the promise of confidentiality. Carlisle believes that reward money may provide the extra incentive necessary for witnesses to speak out against those responsible for the gunfire. He is welcoming monetary donations from citizens to be used for this purpose.
Carlisle also intends to request funds for the installation of a detection system to isolate the exact location of the gunfire. He has yet to determine the cost of such a system. Carlisle has also enrolled in the 1033 program, a through which civilian law enforcement agencies may obtain military equipment free of charge. He believes there may be an option to acquire the necessary equipment through the 1033 program.
When a plan to acquire equipment is formed, he will bring it before city council.
Ultimately, once the police department begins catching the individuals responsible, Carlisle intends to use Facebook and other media outlets to make an example of violators and build Roman Forest’s reputation for catching violators so as to deter future misconduct.
The neighboring city of Woodbranch borders some of the same areas from which the illegal gunfire is believed to be originating and Woodbranch Police Chief Rene Silva may soon be implementing the zero-tolerance policy in Woodbranch as well.
“We’re going to be working with Chief Carlisle on this issue and he’s going to be forwarding all of the information he has about it so that we can implement the same policies and follow the same direction,” Silva said. “We all want to be on the same page and be able to enforce the law in both cities the same way. That way, people won’t get away with it in one city and think they can get away with it in another. That way, we’re on the same page; doing the same thing.”
In addition to the zero tolerance policy, Carlisle also discussed his plan to acquire level 4 rifle-resistant vests for the Roman Forest Police Department.
“Officers, like the detective in San Antonio yesterday are being ambushed and killed,” Carlisle said. “This has been going on all month and it looks like a pretty bad trend. In light of recent assassinations of officers, there is something I have already started working toward, level 4 vests, which can stop rifle fire.
“It’s a heavy vest that can go over their clothes for high-risk calls, active shooter calls or even if they have a gut feeling. They are the level 4 vests that the military uses. They have the ability to stop the bullets that killed the officers in Baton Rouge and in Dallas. They take multiple hits.”
Carlisle is currently looking at Protech as the body armor supplier. Depending on the brand, he stated that the vests can range in price from between $600 to $800 each and he is looking to provide vests to nine officers and have three vests on standby for shared use by reserve officers.
“They’re expensive, but I already have money for about half of them” Carlisle said. “What I’ll be publicizing pretty soon is an Adopt-an-Officer program where someone can match the cost of one of the vests and adopt a cop. We’ll let the person choose which cop to adopt and they’ll have bragging rights to say that they paid (approximately) $300 to adopt this particular cop.”
During the council meeting, Councilman David Mullane offered to be the first to donate to the Adopt-a-Cop initiative and chose to adopt assistant chief Lieutenant Dimitri Jasonis.
For more information about the Roman Forest Police Department visit http://www.romanforestpd.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/RomanForestPD.