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Gunshot location technology helps in fight against gangs

September 30, 2016
BD Live: Cape Town

TECHNOLOGY to pinpoint the location of gunshots in real time has led to a marked reduction of shots fired in some Cape Town suburbs ravaged by gang turf wars‚ the city says.

ShotSpotter technology has been used in Manenberg and Hanover Park on the Cape Flats – providing law enforcement authorities with the exact location of a gunshot so they can respond immediately.

So far‚ for the month of September 2016‚ 71 gunfire incidents were recorded – down from 128 in August 2016 and 211 in July 2016.

"Historically those communities who endure the highest levels of gun violence are least likely to report it to the police as they have been desensitised‚" said the city’s mayoral committee member for safety and security‚ JP Smith, on Thursday.

"Further to this‚ eyewitness reports can be unreliable due to the trauma caused by these incidents. Dispatching officers to an active shooting without all available intelligence is a threat to their safety and also needlessly places the public at risk.

"The data provided by gunshot detection technology enables intelligent analysis and deployment. With that‚ law enforcement can move from the reactive to the proactive as the system provides critical information for better‚ timelier resource allocation‚" he said.

The technology provides "actionable intelligence"‚ detailing the number of shooters and the number of shots fired‚ and can be used as evidence later to prosecute the perpetrators.

Shots are detected by strategically placed microphones that use acoustic triangulation – deduction based on the speed of sound – and GPS technology to locate shots which can be viewed on a high-resolution map.

"Not only does the technology empower the police force‚ but also seems to give the community renewed impetus in the fight against gangsterism. During the pilot project‚ we saw an increasing willingness from the community to come forward with tip-offs that resulted in arrests and the confiscation of drugs and weapons‚" said Smith.

"Between October 2014 and mid-November 2016 when the pilot ended‚ Metro Police officers made nearly 30 arrests in Hanover Park‚ including five for possession of illegal firearms‚" he said.

Criminals have used firecrackers to try and confuse the system‚ he said.