Metro police announced it began using new technology to detect gunshots fired in the Las Vegas area to help fight gun crime.
ShotSpotter is a pilot project that uses audio sensors “to detect, locate and alert” police where gunfire is heard in real time. Metro said in 30 to 45 seconds, police are alerted where it happened.
Jim Larochelle with Metro gave an example of how the process works.
If gunshots are fired at an apartment complex, monitors pick up the sound, triangulate where it came from, they notify ShotSpotter, which has a human expert confirm that the sounds were from gunfire, he said. Then, that information is relayed to officers’ vehicles and cell phones, along with Fusion Watch and dispatch. Officers are dispatched to the area where they will investigate and look for witnesses and ballistic evidence. They will come back the next day to tell the community why they were there and why they were in the area.
Police said it will increase officers’ situational awareness and will decrease response time.
“This is going to transform how we fight crime and gun violence in our community beginning with Northeast Area Command,” Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick, who was the driving force behind bringing the technology to the valley said. “I have high expectations for this technology and all it can do to help us reduce gun violence. We are going to track its use and effectiveness and I believe it will make a difference – not just in the Northeast, but across the urban County as its use is expanded. When appropriate, officers will canvass the area of a shooting and use door hangers to alert community members and provide them with a mechanism for submitting witness information.”
Commissioner Weekly said he agreed. “Nationally, 80 percent of gun crimes go unreported and there were nine homicides last year in the Northeast area where this pilot project is being implemented. This project will help us turn the corner in fighting gun violence and help our officers serve our community.”
Police said 911 calls and witness accounts remain an important part of investigations.
“The vision of the LVMPD is to be the safest community in America,” Assistant Sheriff Tom Roberts said in a release. “To further that vision, the reduction of violent crime is the number one priority. ShotSpotter is one more step the LVMPD is taking to reduce violent crime in our community. In other cities that have adopted the ShotSpotter solutions, a significant reduction in the rate of gunfire and as a result, a reduction in violent crime and homicides has occurred.” Those cities include New York City, Boston, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Minneapolis, Sacramento, Fresno and several others.
Metro said the pilot project in the South-Central and Southeast Area Commands would be launched in late Nov. or early Dec. “This is a very exciting project that presents us with the very real prospect of reducing crime and gun violence – and potentially saving lives,” Commissioner Giunchigliani said. “I’m thrilled that we can pilot this project in my district.”
ShotSpotter is funded by The Friends of Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Foundation and the University of Nevada Reno Cooperative Extension. Larochelle said the cost was $500,000, which included new surveillance cameras.
He said the sensors were placed on top of buildings in the northeast valley, where gun crimes have been prevalent. Only loud noises will be picked up by ShotSpotter, not conversations and the volume would have to reach a certain threshold, he said.
Larochelle said businesses and apartment managers were notified prior to the ShotSpotter installation.
A high volume of fireworks can cause challenges to the ShotSpotter technology, so Metro said that may present issues on July 4, or on New Year’s Day.
Watch the full Metro press conference below.
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