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ShotSpotter Expanding

April 13, 2016

When a gunshot rings out in some parts of New Haven – or what may only appear to be a gunshot – the sound travels to Silicon Valley in California within 30 seconds.

There it is scrubbed by a computer. The sound is also listened to by a human expert.

If it’s a positive, the finding is relayed back to New Haven including how many shots; whether it was a moving shot or stationary; whether it came from one gun or more than one gun; and its location within four feet.

All this travels back to New Haven police dispatch within another 30 seconds of an incident, and usually before the 911 calls have even begun.

The program has worked so well in New Haven that in May it will expand to cover five square miles, or one third of the city.

And the information, including a map, will eventually appear on the mobile phones of walking beat officers.

Those assessments about the performance the “ShotSpotter” acoustic triangulation technology operating in New Haven were offered by Chief Dean Esserman Tuesday afternoon at ta conference convened at the Study on Chapel Street by ShotSpotter and its parent company, the Newark, California-based SST-Inc.

Esserman and the city helped ShotSpotter host the two-day conference for the company’s new Customer Advisory Board comprised of some of the customers from among the 90 municipalities that employ the technology.

In a study ShotSpotter calls its National Gunfire Index, published last month, New Haven ranked second in the top five cities showing significant declines in gunfire.

ShotSpotter President and CEO Ralph Clark said the company was scouting about for a place to convene such an event not only to highlight results but also to expose customers and staffers to experts on the effects of gunfire and violence on children and other such issues.

The proximity of Yale University and its experts on childhood trauma related to violence made New Haven a natural choice, said Clark. He said he himself is particularly interested in the effects of trauma on children.

Clark and ShotSpotter Senior Vice President for Operations Joe Hawkins.
Chief Esserman agreed to co-host and help to arrange for speakers such as Steven Marans of the Child Development-Community Policing program at the Yale School of Medicine as well as to secure discounted rates for the attendees at The Study at Yale hotel.

Esserman said that he sees the conclave as helping advance the idea that “gun violence is not just [about] criminal justice; it’s a public health issue.”

“Research shows the majority of shots fired in America are not called in,” he added.

ShotSpotter was introduced in 2009 to New Haven, the first city in Connecticut to adopt the technology. In the beginning there were false positives and other problems, which were worked out, the chief said.

“The new generation of the equipment is remarkable,” said Esserman, citing the speed, accuracy, and 24-hour availability of the services all operating out of Clark’s complex in Newark, California.

In printed materials distributed at the conference, Mayor Toni Harp wrote, “We are tremendous believers in the ShotSpotter technology and look forward to expanding its use across New Haven. From 2011 to 2015, homicides are down 55 percent and non-fatal shootings are down 52 percent. When we first started using ShotSpotter we would never have imagined numbers like these, and while there are many reasons for these positive trends, ShotSpotter is an important part of the overall approach.”

The expansion of the system has been previously approved and funded by the Board of Aldersn and was contained in last year’s budget, said Esserman. With next month’s rollout, he said, New Haven will have the “largest [ShotSpotter] footprint in America.”

The Chief declined to say which parts of the city are and will be covered, and which not.

New Haven Independent