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More people reporting gunfire in South Bend

August 03, 2015


Would you report a shooting if you heard one?

The South Bend Police Department is trying to encourage people to report gunfire as apart of an on-going initiative to boost relations with citizens. One way the department is hoping to nurture community relations is through the ShotSpotter technology.

"You'd like to think people would call 100% of the time when there's gunfire," said South Bend Police Chief Ron Teachman. "But there are some neighborhoods where the gunfire is so prevalent that people become desensitized."

Four square-miles of South Bend is equip with ShotSpotter technology; dozens of sensors that notify ShotSpotter headquarters in California within seconds of reported gunfire. After 20-30 seconds of the initial report, technicians send the information to officers in South Bend.

The technology went live in South Bend in January 2014. But a key component of making ShotSpotter achieve its potential, is community engagement.

Teachman says the ShotSpotter data combined with citizens reporting gunfire will help police investigations, safeguard neighborhoods, and protect police officers in the field.

Chief Teachman believes a police presence at calls for "shots fired" reassures neighbors they're listening -- and he says it works.

"If you're in a neighborhood where shots are fired reguarly and you don't see a response, why would you call?" asked Teachman. "Police don't respond because we weren't informed. People don't call us because we don't respond. That's closing that loop."

Teachman says the results are seen through the number of people reporting shots fired.

In June 2014, about 11% of people who experienced gunshots, reported them. One year later, three-times more people are reporting shootings to police, according to police statistics.

St. Joseph County Deputy Prosecutor Ken Cotter says he was initially skeptical of the idea, but it has "proven" itself during the past year-and-a-half. He says it's especially helpful in self-defense claims, because it can often provide insight on the caliber of weapon involved in a shooting.

But is it reducing crime so far?

Police say there were 8 homicides this year, which matches that numbers from 2014 as of June.

Chief Teachman says the number of "shots fired" calls has gone up in recent years; while the number of "gang or group" related homicides has gone down substantially in 2015.

South Bend was one of the front-runners in mid-sized cities to purchase ShotSpotter and spends about $150,000 each year.

Typically, it costs $50,000 to purchase 1-square mile of coverage, but South Bend received a $50,000 discount from the company.