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Digital surveillance technology is helping track shootings across the city, Louisville police say

June 14, 2017
Courier Journal: Louisville

A new tool is helping Louisville Metro Police Department detect and respond to more public shootings, law enforcement officials said Tuesday, amid one of Louisville's most violent years on record.

Since being implemented two weeks ago, ShotSpotter technology has enabled police officers to respond to 89 shootings that might not otherwise have been reported, LMPD Maj. Josh Juda said.

"Most of these were incidents that we wouldn't have responded to anyway," Juda said. "Gunfire is something that people don't call us on for a number of reasons: fear, they've become accustomed to it or they don't think we're effective. Now we're responding to them."Judah modeled the ShotSpotter technology during the news conference, showing that it can detect the exact location of gunfire, as well as the number of shots fired at any given moment. It has been installed in nearly six square miles of Louisville.

    Demo of the Shot Spotter technology, can tell how many shots were fired and where. pic.twitter.com/SFKqpKEerw
    — Thomas Novelly (@TomNovelly) June 14, 2017

Police have integrated the new ShotSpotter technology into the everyday operations of their Real Time Crime Center — a resource that gathers surveillance and data across the city to inform officers. Real Time Crime Center director Jennifer Corum said that it's already paying off.

“Our analysts keep ShotSpotter on their desktops with the notifications and sound on at all times,” Corum said. “It has become an integral part of our organization.”

The Real Time Crime Center was established in 2014 and hired nine citizens as analysts to help gather intelligence on crime scenes.

The analysts monitor screens that display a rotation of 82 live surveillance cameras placed throughout the city, which Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer called a "set of eyes" across much of the city.

"This is more than people watching cameras," Fischer said. "It's analysts looking at crime in real-time and spotting trends to help officers on the beat do a more comprehensive job."

In the three years since the Real Time Crime Center opened, Louisville has seen a spike in homicides. So far, LMPD has investigated 61 homicides this year. This puts the department on pace to eclipse the 118 criminal homicide investigations it handled last year — the most in its 14-year history.

The Real Time Crime Center has had to grow accordingly, adding two analysts in the years since 2014.

“We currently have over 200 cameras on this system,” Police Chief Steve Conrad “Prior to the Real Time Crime Center, we had a Metro Watch Camera system that started in 2006 that had only 50 cameras on there.”

Corum said that they are still looking for more resources.

“In the current budget request, we are asking for an addition team analyst and an additional supervisor to assist me with the day to day operations,” Corum said.

Fischer also made a push for one of his budget priorities, the KentuckyWired project, during the news conference, suggesting that the work of the Real Time Crime Center would benefit from a better fiber-optic network in the city.

"Without access to fiber, what happens is we're forced to pay a costly monthly fee for internet connectivity for each camera, and we don't always have the same quality video," he said.

In his 2017-18 budget proposal, Fischer said that the city wants to work with KentuckyWired — a state-affiliated effort to expand rapid broadband service across the state — to lay the extra fiber optics cable in Louisville.