Las Cruces residents report target-practice gunfire in desert near homes

POSTED: 10:58 PM MDT Oct 29, 2013    UPDATED: 05:31 PM MST Jan 16, 2014 

East Las Cruces residents met Tuesday with city and state officials to voice concerns about target-practice gunfire near their homes and within city limits.

They've even seen shooters firing their weapons from moving vehicles, said one of the nearly 30 residents in attendance.

Discharging a weapon is not allowed within city limits, and state law mandates that a weapon not be discharged within 150 yards of a home. Violators could face up to 90 days in jail and up to a $500 fine.

Inside city limits are the areas south of Peachtree Hills Road, north of the east end of Lohman Avenue and west of Hanger Lake Road. But the area where shots have been reported is about 5,000 acres total, with some parts more than three miles inside city limits, officials said.

"You'll get a 'boom, boom, boom, boom," said Jim Albertson, who lives near the corner of Pagosa Hills Avenue and Sonora Springs Boulevard -- one area of concern.

He hears shots roughly once a week -- mostly at night, he said.

"We've got a lot of residents that walk their dogs around the area, as well as kids with their bikes," he said.

People are "finding piles of shells everywhere and hearing gunfire all the time," said Mayor Pro-Tem Sharon Thomas. "So they've stopped going out there, because they're fearful."

Albertson has called the police a half-dozen times, but because of the rough desert terrain, officers in patrol cars have a tough time chasing down shooters in ATVs, he said.

Jim Dickinson just moved into the neighborhood 10 days ago and has already heard the shooting. It's nothing new, he said, and doesn't blame the shooters -- the closest legal shooting range is more than 20 miles away.

"It don't bother me," Dickinson said. "It's just people shooting their guns. It's not like they're going out hunting people."

But resident Mary Clement often feels like a sitting duck while trying to relax in her swimming pool, she said.

"Sometimes you can tell that they're really big guns because of the really loud 'boom' that they do," she said. "And our retaining walls in the back aren't that high. And it is very close. You can see them walking around back there. And somebody really needs to do something."