Springfield Expands Range Of Gunshot Detection System

Mar 15, 2013

Police in Springfield Massachusetts are deploying more technology to combat gun violence. A community organization raised money to expand the area covered by a gunshot detection system.

Information about gunfire detected by the ShotSpotter system is shown on a laptop computer used by Springfield Police.
Information about gunfire detected by the ShotSpotter system is shown on a laptop computer used by Springfield Police.
Credit WAMC

The area of Springfield now covered by a gunshot detection system called ShotSpotter has been roughly doubled to six square miles. Springfield Police Commissioner William Fitchet described the technology as a “ force multiplier”  that is helping law enforcement, hampered by budget cuts, cope with an issue currently at the center of national debate.

ShotSpotter  uses acoustic sensors to pinpoint the location of gunfire and transmit the information within seconds to police dispatchers and to laptop computers in police cruisers. A map on the computer screen shows where the gun was fired  and there is a recording of the shots.   This is a ShotSpotter recording of a incident in Springfield on January 27 that police say led to an arrest.

Police say data analysis reveals that most of the gunshots detected by the technology, an average of 2000 a year since 2008, were not reported by a call to 911.  When police were called, it was typically five minutes or more after the shots were fired.

Springfield police detective Sean Sullivan, who has analyzed the Shotspotter data says 14 arrests per year since 2008 can be directly attributed to the system, with an equal number of gun seizures. He said the mere  existence of the shot detection system is also acting as a deterrent.

About 100 cities and counties use the ShotSpotter system, according to the company, including Troy and Yonkers .

The expansion in Springfield was paid for by the New North Citizens Council as part of an ongoing safe neighborhood initiative in Springfield’s North End.  Jose Claudio, the organization’s director of community development said $120,000 was raised from neighborhood businesses and apartment building property managers, including the Springfield Housing Authority.

That effort to combat crime in the North End began three years ago as a partnership involving the Springfield Police, State Police, the Hampden District Attorney, business owners and residents. Part of the initiative involves the use of military counterinsurgency tactics to combat gangs.   Ted Cupac, who has lived in the neighborhood for more than 30 years says there has been a dramatic improvement since the initiative began.

Authorities say a shortage of officers and troopers, because of budget cuts in recent years, has prevented the anti-crime model from expanding to other high crime areas.