« Back to News

Technology helps Springfield Police decipher gunshots from fireworks

June 30, 2016


With the Fourth of July holiday approaching, Springfield police are expecting an increase in calls over the use of private fireworks.

Police noted that residents may confuse the sound of fireworks with that of gunshots, but the department said that they have a special tool to differentiate between the two.

That tool: the city's ShotSpotter system, which has been in use for about five years now.

Police explained that the fact that the devices can tell the difference in sound comes in handy this time of year.

They may be fun to look at and with firework shops popping up across our borders, they may be tempting to buy, but fireworks are illegal in Massachusetts.

"If you bring them back to Massachusetts, you have to understand it is arrestable, it is illegal, and it's because of safety concerns," said Springfield Police Sgt. John Delaney.

However, the law likely won't stop a few folks from lighting off their own displays in their backyards, which leads to an influx of phone calls to the Springfield Police Department.

"The number one complaint around July 4 is fireworks.  People can't sleep, pets are bothered by it, children are afraid of it," Delaney added.

Delaney said that some residents may even mistake the sound for gunfire, but with the department's ShotSpotter system, officers are able to quickly decide whether the sound is that of fireworks or firearms.

"When you hear the sound, the computer can tell the difference between a handgun and a firework, but it still goes off and it still has to be investigated," Delaney explained.

The ShotSpotter system can even tell the difference between a car backfiring, a dumpster slamming, or construction digging in the road, which in the end, can potentially save officers time during a busy holiday weekend.

"We were one of the first departments in the United States to have this type of technology and it's really worth its weight in gold," Delaney said.

The ShotSpotter system only covers a few areas of the city, but police are working to try and expand it to all neighborhoods.

Western Mass News - Springfield, MA