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Hillsborough to launch ‘ShotSpotter’ to target illegal gunfire

January 15, 2016

Over the next few days, Hillsborough County will roll out new technology in the University and Nuccio areas of Tampa that will help them locate and respond to gunfire just minutes after it happens.

According to Captain David Fleet, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office has purchased a system called "ShotSpotter," which integrates time-delay mathematics with a system of sensors placed throughout the area to detect when and where shots are fired.

When the sensors detect sounds that could be gunfire, they send an alert to the ShotSpotter command center, where trained workers review the incident. If it was indeed gunfire, an alert along with a location will go out to deputies who can immediately respond.

Fleet said the locations given by the sensors are often within feet of accuracy.

Right now, there are about 80 sensors up throughout the University and Nuccio areas, and Fleet said technicians have been testing them and calibrating all the GPS sensors before launching the technology. He added that the University and Nuccio areas were chosen after looking at hot spots of violent crime across the county.

Fleet also said ShotSpotter allows deputies to respond to illegal gunfire that might never be called into 911. He estimates 80 to 90 percent of gunshots are never reported.

"We're going to be busier responding to these incidents, but ultimately, we're going to arrest more people that are doing illegal gunfire," said Fleet.

This new system cost about $800,000 for three years, and was paid for through a board of county commissioners trust fund.

"Ultimately what we hope is we're going to get a very quick response to gunfire, which is going to allow is to get deputies to the scene quickly to look for victims, to find potential suspects still in the area and hopefully arrest those offenders that are doing the illegal gunfire," said Fleet.

ShotSpotter's move to Hillsborough County will play a major role in the sheriff's office's "Eye on Crime" initiative, which includes a system of about 50 surveillance cameras along with vehicle tag readers on the streets.

The cameras, tag readers and surveillance cameras will all work together to help deputies more quickly track criminal activity and locate suspects.

We're trying to make the environment safer here. We're looking for people doing illegal things. We don't peep into people's windows with our cameras. We only do things that document what crime is happening out there," said Fleet.

Sheriff's officials said they retain vehicle tag data for 90 days and surveillance video for 30 days unless it is part of a criminal investigation.