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Police tech tracks gunfire within seconds of shooting

November 12, 2015

COLUMBUS — Gunfire has become a part of the neighborhood in some Columbus communities.

An ABC 6/Fox 28 Investigation shows, within the past six months, Columbus Police have responded to 365 shootings, an average of one every 12 hours.

Ohio's capitol is not the only city battling gun violence. Just a couple of hours north, it's a similar story in Canton.

"Bang, bang, we hear shots all the time," said Sharon Ball, who lives in Canton.

But Canton Police are now able to respond to gunfire even before a call is placed to 911.

Canton Police are now fighting back with "Shotspotter" a mobile microphone network scattered in the city's high crime neighborhoods that can detect gunshots and pinpoint its immediate location.

"What has resulted is nearly a 50% decrease in citizens calling for shots fired," said Canton Police Lt. John Gabbard.

Patrol officers monitor gunshot activity using their cruiser laptops. Within seconds of a shooting, a red dot pops up on the screen directing officers where to respond.

Canton Officer Frank Ranalli says the new technology allows officers to find shell casings left behind by the shooter within just a 10 feet of the location provided by Shotspotter. Ranalli said before Shotspotter, officers could sometimes spend hours searching for the important evidence.

"We are able to recover the casings, sometimes link them to other crimes and people," said Ranalli.

Shotspotter equipment was used several years ago as part of the I-270 Sniper investigation in Central Ohio.

More than a decade later, ABC 6/FOX 28 wanted to know if the mobile gunshot detection system could make a return to Columbus.

"We are hoping to continue the conversation we have had and see if it makes sense to work with Columbus Police," said Ralph Clark, Chief Executive Officer, with Shotspotter.

Shotspotter representatives say the company plans to contact the new administration early next year, after Mayor-Elect Andy Ginther takes office.

While Shotspotter is making a difference in Canton, we've discovered potential cracks in the system.

"If there's gunfire between tall buildings, sometimes it's not picked up, some calibers not picked up like a 22-caliber," said Gabbard

"We know we are going to miss some shots," said Clark," but we certainly report a significant portion."

The detection system is not cheap.

Clark says hypothetically, it could cost Columbus $300,000 per year to cover five square miles of the city with sensors.

"Because the impact of the device is such a small combined area," said Capitol Lodge Fraternal Order of Police President Jason pappas, "You have to weigh those things and determine where you need to allocate the resources, to have the most impact for community and safty overall."

"It's not only affordable, it's a game changer," said Clark," you can't do what we are doing in terms of detecting gunfire."

Columbus Police say they met with Shotspotter officials several years ago and determined the system was too expensive for the budget.

Shotspotter officials say since then, they've reduced costs for cities, no longer requiring them to buy equipment, and now work with local governments on how to obtain government grants and funding. Something company reps will tell Columbus officials when they re-pitch the product to them next year.

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