The new surveillance system, expected to be up and running early next year if not sooner, picks up the sound of gunfire using a series of sensors and, through an acoustic-based global positioning system, sends the location to police immediately.
When a 16-year-old girl was shot and killed leaving a baby shower five months ago, ambulances were sent to two streets with similar names because it wasn’t clear where the shooting occurred.
That scenario might now be prevented after the city installs a new system to detect when and where gunshots are fired.
“It pinpoints to within 10 feet or so where the shots are coming from so you are not on a wild goose chase,” Police Chief William Conlon said.
The new surveillance system is expected to be up and running early next year, if not sooner.
It picks up the sound of gunfire using a series of sensors and, through an acoustic-based global positioning system, sends the location to police immediately. It can also tell how many guns are being fired.
“The officers will know whether they are heading into a gun battle or not,” Conlon said.
The city is paying for the technology with three federal grants totaling $229,000.
The system, made by the California company ShotSpotter, will be installed in one of the “hot spots” in the city and will cover a one-mile radius, said Michele N. Streitmater, grant coordinator for Brockton police. Its exact location is being determined.
There were 235 incidents in the city involving a gun in 2008 — and 78 percent occurred on the street, according to an analysis by Kelley Research Associates for Brockton police.
But authorities say there may be many more cases involving reports of shots fired. The number of reports of shots fired was not available. Streitmater said the new program may be able to provide that number.
ShotSpotter is already in place in cities across the country, including Boston, Springfield, New Haven, Conn., and Rochester, N.Y.
Springfield police Sgt. John Delaney said ShotSpotter led to the seizure of guns and gun-toting suspects, enhanced officer safety and has, as a result, helped make the city safer.
“It tells us within 15 seconds where a shot has been fired,” he said.
Recently in Springfield, three people were arrested and two guns seized when the ShotSpotter alerted authorities to gunfire in what turned out to be a home invasion, said Springfield Sgt. John Delaney. No one had called 911 but the ShotSpotter alerted police to the shots, he said.
In Brockton, the chief said the system will eventually be tied into video surveillance programs in the city.
“As we expand the network of cameras, this technology can be blended,” Conlon said. “
“ It could pick up the scene of the shooting or it may catch someone fleeing from the direction of the shooting,” he said.
Lt. John Crowley, chief of detectives, said in some cases people call police to say they hear gunfire but aren’t sure of the location. The new system will “bring us to the scene of the crime,” he said.
It will also alert police even if no one calls.
“Unfortunately, in some neighborhoods, people become passive,” Crowley said. “They think someone else will call.”
That was also the case in Springfield, Delaney said. “A lot of times, gunshots go unreported,” he said.
Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz said the system will help get police to the scene quicker.
“It is literally seconds from the shot that they will be notified,” he said. “It is very high tech. It is a good piece of the puzzle. Is it going to be the end-all of everything? No. Is it going to be a help? Of course,” Cruz said.
The chief added that in some cases gunshot victims who turn up at the hospital for treatment lie to police about where they had been shot.
“With this system, we can find the location and we may at least be able to find some evidence,” he said.
Maureen Boyle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— ShotSpotter picks up gunfire sounds using sensors and with acoustic GPS sends its location to police.
— Brockton is paying for the technology with three federal grants totaling $229,000.
— The system will be installed at a city “hot Spot” and cover a 1-mile radius.
— There were 235 incidents in the city involving a gun last year; 78 percent occurred on the street.
Source: Brockton Police Department