Shotspotter Blog

What a Difference a Minute Makes

In the United States gun crime is a widespread public safety challenge affecting over 2,000 cities of various size in every region of the country.  More than 11,000 homicides are committed with a firearm annually, that’s over 30 murders every day . An additional 75,000 non-fatal injuries result from unlawful shootings every year.

Law enforcement has traditionally measured the severity of gun violence in terms of homicides and non-fatal shootings. Reports of gunfire to 911 are also tracked by police..  Recent research, however, has confirmed that most illegal gunfire is rarely reported to police. With fewer than 1 in 5 shooting incidents reported to 9-1-1, gun crime is vastly underreported in the United States. [See ShotSpotter 2013 National Gunfire Index ]  It has been estimated that an unlawful discharge of a firearm occurs over 100 times for each homicide with a gun.

It’s Time to Leverage Technology
In my 25 years as an ATF agent, I responded to calls for service and searched for evidence of shootings. I partnered with task force officers and we canvassed large areas looking for a body. We hoped to get lucky because we lacked the precise real time intelligence we needed to succeed.  Instead of targeting the most violent shooters with state of the art technology, we arrested unlawful possessors of guns who happened to fall into our net.

Imagine what members of your community would think of a fire department that was only capable of responding to 1 in 5 fires.  Such a hypothetical is comical and difficult to imagine as fire alarms and smoke detectors enable fire professionals to respond directly and very quickly to most every fire.  In cities that have yet to embrace gunshot detection technology you have a scenario that is not hypothetical but a real public safety emergency costing countless lost lives and injuries that forever change lives.

The good news is that technology, the same type of technology built into every school’s fire alarm system, can provide immediate alerts and situational awareness to help ensure safe and quick response. Real time gunfire intelligence, combined with precise and rapid law enforcement response, can substantially improve the effectiveness of any gun violence reduction strategy. 

Wide area acoustic-based gunshot detection technology, such as ShotSpotter, has been deployed in over 90 cities in the U.S.   ShotSpotter technology is currently at work in cities as diverse as Birmingham, AL, Boston, Detroit, Miami Gardens, FL, Milwaukee, Oakland, Peoria, IL and Washington, D.C.  Many of the cities using ShotSpotter have realized that it is an effective tool in reducing gun violence.   A year-on-year study of gunfire incidents in ShotSpotter-protected cities revealed a median decrease of 28.8%.  (For more on that, please read our National Gunfire Index, at

Ensuring Officer Safety
Officers dispatched to a potential shooting situation need all available intelligence. Gunshot detection technology gives police the tools they need to respond more safely, and to collect shell casings and other critical evidence, boosting law enforcement’s effectiveness.  ShotSpotter instantly notifies officers of gun crimes in progress with real-time data delivered to dispatch centers, officers’ laptops, and smart phones.  That means, in a typical incident captured by ShotSpotter sensors, the officers dispatched will know if the shots were fired in front of or behind a house, on the roof, or from a moving vehicle.  It also greatly increases the odds that they will encounter one of the shooters and/or a victim in need of assistance, and related shell casing that can then be entered into evidence by the prosecution.   It all starts with real-time alerts on confirmed gunfire in less than a minute.  

Gunshot detection technology is now playing a very effective role in faster response to ultimately make communities safer. For example:

In Denver, where ShotSpotter was first deployed, police saw results in the first 24 hours  it was activated.  ShotSpotter alerted the police when shots rang out in the 3100 block of North Williams Street, northeast of downtown. When officers arrived, they discovered multiple shell casings on the ground. Officers learned where the suspects were hiding, arrested three men with outstanding warrants, and also recovered a gun.

In Camden, NJ, gunfire incidents are down more than 45% in 2014 compared to 2013.  In a CBS investigation, Kris van Cleave reported from Camden, N.J., that the ShotSpotter technology is real and making a difference in a community with a long history of gun violence.  Camden, NJ Assistant  Chief Orlando Cuevas says police response times are down from over 9 minutes to as low as 30 seconds, and calls that a “game changer” that has helped to cut the number of shootings and homicides in half over the last two years.

The thread that unites these anecdotes is the ability to detect, locate and alert on gunfire in under a minute.  Just like firefighters who can arrive at the scene of a fire before things get out of control, local law enforcement can speed to the scene of a gun crime in progress.

You can listen to the related podcast on the Motorola Solutions site, 

July 27, 2015
By: David Chipman, Sr. VP, Public Safety