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Cincinnati police hope enhanced acoustics lead to decline in gun violence

Police finalizing contract with ShotSpotter LLC

January 06, 2017
WLWT, Cincinnati

Video: Police hope enhanced acoustics lead to decline in gun violence

Cincinnati police hope hearing gunshots faster than ever before will help reduce violence in the Queen City.

"Everybody would like to find a solution to the problem," Claudia Chamberlain said.

Chamberlain lives in Oakley but works at a church in East Walnut Hills, where police investigated 21 calls for shots fired last year.

Overall, data provided by the city show police investigated nearly 3,000 reports of gunfire in 2016. In most cases, no one was hurt, but reducing the sheer volume of gun blasts is a priority for Cincinnati's police department.

"What is the solution?" Chamberlain asked. "Is it the grownups? Is it the children? Is it something that we can do to help?"

Assistant Police Chief Paul Neudigate said the public's help is critical in the fight against gun crimes. But he also said police are about to deploy a new tool designed to find shooting scenes in a matter of seconds, as opposed to minutes.

"It's not instantaneous yet," Neudigate said. "But it definitely cuts down from a four-to-five-minute window to about 40 seconds."

The new tool is called ShotSpotter, and Neudigate hopes police have it up and running, in a neighborhood where shootings are all too common, before summer arrives.

ShotSpotter uses audio sensors placed throughout a neighborhood to pinpoint where someone pulls a trigger, and then alerts police.

"It's my intent to put it in a pre-determined neighborhood, I'm hopeful by summer before our seasonal crime spike hits," Neudigate said. "We are looking at one of our top five challenged neighborhoods for shooting violence. We will make an informed decision based upon the data where we're going to implement it."

"I envision, wherever we put it this first year, if it's successful and it helps us significantly reduce gun violence in that area, other communities are going to be screaming for it," Neudigate said.

Neudigate said Cincinnati residents need to be prepared to see the numbers of shooting investigations rise, because data collected by ShotSpotter in other cities shows in many cases people don't bother to call police when a gun goes off.

"Only about 30 percent of all shots-fired incidents in some of these challenged neighborhoods are ever called in," Neudigate said. "What we really think is, in addition to cutting down on the response time, it's going to make us aware of a lot of shots-fired activity we're not even aware occurs."

Neudigate said police officials are working to finalize a contract with the company that makes the gunshot detection system, ShotSpotter LLC. The system is not cheap. It costs $65,000 per square mile, and Cincinnati police expect to spend $235,000 for the system for the first year.

But Neudigate said reducing the number of shooting victims in the city will lead to substantial savings, because he said fewer shootings equals fewer police investigations and fewer trips to the hospital.