After bullets were found on several properties on Towne Hill Road in recent months, the Haverhill Hound Rod and Gun Club has closed its rifle range until further notice.
A member of the club said members voted to close the range while they investigate how the bullets ended up dangerously close to neighboring homes.
But police Chief Alan DeNaro said the bullets came from the club’s pistol range, which remains open.
“We looked at four houses that had bullet damage either to a house or a vehicle,” DeNaro said. “We can attribute at least three of the four rounds to have not come from the rifle range. We believe they came from the pistol area.’’
The problems started earlier this summer, when Tom Pickles of 108 Towne Hill Road found a bullet in his driveway. In the weeks that followed, more residents found bullets near their houses, including one that went through a house and was lodged in a basement and one that broke a car windshield.
Residents went to the police and approached the gun club to share their concerns. They were given a tour of the club and were shown the safety measures that have been take to prevent bullets from getting out of the rifle range.
The rifle range was of immediate concern to the neighbors because bullets are shot there in the direction of Towne Hill Road. There is a large barrier that is supposed to prevent the bullets from escaping the range.
“Our goal is not to shut them down, but we want to create a safe neighborhood,” Pickles said of the club.
Members believe that the club’s closure would be prosperous for potential developers of land near the club.
In addition to the pistol range remaining open, the club also has a shotgun range which is currently operating.
The club has had problems with bullets leaving the confines of the pistol range in the past. In 2004, a police investigation determined a stray bullet from the pistol range landed on the roof of a home on Bradford Green Way.
Officials at the gun club spent $17,000 to redesign the range and installed larger barriers to protect neighbors.
DeNaro said the stray bullets come from misuse of equipment, rather than a faulty design.
“People are improperly firing weapons,” he said. “It appears that people are not qualifying at the target. Those type of actions can’t happen in the future. We have no problem with target shooting. It’s been there many years. The issue comes in when people don’t use the equipment and the range properly. Some of those bullets can travel one to two miles.’’
The club agreed with the neighbors and has shut down the rifle range while the investigation continues. DeNaro said he expected to hear from the club’s board of directors by the end of this week to see what they will decide to do with the pistol range, after the latest findings by police.
“I’m not sure what they will come up with,” DeNaro said. “We are waiting.”
DeNaro said that if the club’s decision does not appease the Police Department, he will consider legal avenues.
Pickles said that after the recent incidents, Mayor James Fiorentini visited the residents and took a tour of the neighborhood to assess the situation.
Fiorentini did not wish to comment due to “delicate negotiations,” he said.
Pickles said all parties have handled the issue well so far.
“The club has been extremely cooperative with us from the start,” he said. “We aren’t trying to make them look like bad guys. We just politely asked that they close the rifle range until there is some sort of improvement. Obviously the major concern is public safety.”