Shotspotter Blog


One of the first and most prominent things people see when they open the web page for the Canton, Ohio police department is a bold, capitalized link to click for information on a gunshot detection system used by the department to help combat crime.  Chief Bruce Lawver, now in his fourth year, wants to make sure the community and potential offenders are well aware that in Canton, violent crime and gun violence will not be tolerated.  With the technology in place for more than two years, gunfire incidents have decreased by nearly one-third per year, while citizen engagement, and evidence collection has increased by nearly four times.

Combating Violent Crime

When Chief Lawver was promoted to his post in early 2013, the most pressing issue he faced was addressing violent crime in the urban city of 75,000 residents.  In urban areas, like Canton, it is believed that only some 20% of gunshots are even called in to the police. The idea of using gunfire detection technology as a part of a comprehensive gun violence eradication strategy was already being explored as a more effective way to improve public safety. ShotSpotter – was the system that he and his team felt could be most beneficial for the department and the community.

Getting the Word Out

Chief Lawver said that from the very beginning, even before the department began implementing ShotSpotter and testing it, they made sure to widely promote the technology; the department's planned use of the technology and the accrued benefits to the community. Lawver knew it was important to get the word out to offenders and potential offenders that this new system was going to change the game and could even be a powerful psychological tool since criminals don't know where it is or isn't activated.  Furthermore, as a major budget item and business decision, it was critical that there was buy-in from the city, community and the department at large.

Real-Time Gunshot Alerts

Set up to cover a three square-mile radius, the ShotSpotter system enables Canton officers to make informed decisions for faster and more accurate emergency response. First responders are able to arrive more quickly, while also being better prepared to act with improved situational intelligence such as precise location for aiding victims and most importantly demonstrating to the community a precise and deliberate response to *all gunfire* incidents which is critical in disrupting the normalization of gun violence. Since deploying ShotSpotter, the Canton police department reports an average monthly activations drop of 31 percent in 2014 and 35 percent in 2015.

Better Evidence and Follow Up

Another important benefit of ShotSpotter is the ability to collect forensic evidence, leading to more thorough investigations and increased prosecutions.  Chief Lawver estimates that in Canton, evidence collection is four times greater than before the system was installed. With the accurate gunfire data collected by the system, the technicians can conduct enhanced crime analysis. By getting on the scene faster, they can collect crucial evidence such as shell casings, fingerprints and identify witnesses – resulting in the chance to recover evidence that could be used later in court.

A Must-Have Tool for Law Enforcement

When asked about his future plans for ShotSpotter, Chief Lawver said that he couldn't imagine working without it and that they could not have achieved what they have in Canton with just manpower alone.

July 27, 2016