A Miami shootout that prompted no calls to 911 was picked up by a high-tech gunfire detection system called ShotSpotter Flex, which police are now using to track and understand gunfire better in three of the city’s poorest, violence-scarred neighborhoods: Liberty City, Little Haiti, and Overtown. What they’ve learned is startling, the Miami Herald reports.
The first 12 months of ShotSpotter data shows that 8,280 individual gunshots were recorded and reported by the system’s dispatchers, an average of 22 bullets a day in an area spanning about four square miles. Police were alerted to as many as 1,600 possible shooting events in the three neighborhoods between March of 2015 and 2016. Police say that’s a staggering increase in gunfire reports of up to 800 percent from the previous year, when incidents were tallied only from 911 calls.
“It’s a huge number. That’s why I was skeptical at first,” said Detective Jorge Agrait, who oversees the city’s implementation of ShotSpotter and analyzes the department’s data. “I was in shock.” Through the use of the system, now employed by dozens of police departments, police say they are finally getting a clear picture of what goes on in communities that have battled for decades to control violence — most recently a string of fatal shootings of kids and teens. Miami Police Chief Rodolfo Llanes, initially a skeptic, now calls the system “an eye-opener.” For $275,000, ShotSpotter installed a network of acoustic sensors in secret locations that pick up the sound of gunfire and triangulate its location, which is relayed to a company call center in California. There, technicians listen to the audio and, if it sounds like gunfire, send alerts, sound files and location reports to the city’s dispatch center and officers’ smart phones. It all takes 45 seconds. Some critics have raised privacy and “Big Brother” concerns; others question whether the technology creates false alarms that police waste time addressing. The Broward Sheriff’s Office ended a pilot program due to questions about cost, accuracy and efficacy. It didn’t help crack cases.