How effective is gun detection technology in fighting crime?

CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP)– Shot-Spotter will soon be installed in the city of Holyoke, joining more than 135 cities across the country.

But what is gun detection technology? How is it used by police departments and does it affect crime? 22News I-Team Reporter Kate Wilkinson takes a deep look.

After a spike in homicides in the city this year– the Holyoke City Council in October accepted a nearly $65,000 grant from the Attorney General’s Office specifically to put ShotSpotter across two square miles. However, this decision caused controversy.

Holyoke City Councilman Jose Maldonado Velez spoke against the proposal at a September 1 meeting. “I live right in that red zone. At this point, there should be a shot from my window based on fear. “

He voted against the measure – but it was defeated by a 9-3 vote in October. 22 The news of this story reached the city councilors, but they did not listen.

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Meanwhile in Springfield, Deputy Chief Stephen Kent said the department has been using ShotSpotter for more than a decade. “You have several microphones set up around the city. You have an app on your phone to receive notifications on your phone. “

This happened on October 7 on Orange Street. The app was able to show how the shooter was moving when he fired the shot, and the direction the suspect was going. Kent’s details could be crucial to the investigation, especially since most shootings go unreported to police.

“70 percent of those didn’t call 911,” Kent said. “We would not have been notified that someone had fired a gun in the neighborhood without ShotSpotter.”

But does gun detection technology reduce crime? A 2021 study in the Journal of Urban Health found that gun detection technology had no significant impact on gun-related homicides or arrests.

As for Springfield, Kent noted, “We’re not reducing the number of shots but I think we’re having more success responding to those shots.”

Springfield police said ShotSpotter reported 337 activations on Nov. 23. Among these activations, evidence of gunshots such as gunshots, was found in 308 cases. This is almost a daily activation and every time the police have to respond.

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Holyoke City Councilman Jose Maldonado Velez’s concerns were raised on September 1. “What he’s telling me is to send more police to black and brown communities,” the councilman said.

This criticism was echoed by AIC Associate Professor of Criminal Justice David Kuzmeski. “With police activation, they respond to the idea that there is violence and that there may be a gun and they become more tense or vigilant which can lead to excessive stops and disturbances,” Kuzmeski said.

The Springfield Police Department did not say where the gun detection technology is being deployed but told the 22News I-Team that it is in areas with high levels of gun activity. I asked Kent if officers treat people differently when responding to these activations. He said that if people stand around, they can be treated as if they are firing a gun.

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“Within the limits of the law and the constitution. But the officers have a right to defend themselves and I hope they do. It can be stressful for some, some people might want to yell or be held back but the reality is it’s a dangerous situation,” Kent said.

Professor Kuzmeski said that while gun detection technology will not stop gun crime, it is still an important tool for law enforcement – such as shortening the time it takes for officers to respond to a victim. killed to give them life-saving care or use it to alert others. people to leave the scene of the shooting.

“Let’s take over the city of Springfield. Within the city limits, if there was a release of a gun that is a crime. Don’t you want a quick answer?” said Kuzmeski.

Springfield police spokesman Ryan Walsh said ShotSpotter has alerted officers to 44 fatal shootings this year. 30 of the victims he said would not have been found without technology. With the 22News I-Team, I’m Kate Wilkinson, 22News.

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