Quincy shot spotter up and running
Friday, November 23, 2012
How it works
QUINCY — ShotSpotter Flex measures tiny differences in the time it takes for the sound of a shot to reach a series of sensors. Software is then used to triangulate the point of origin.
“When a sound goes off, it ripples out like when you throw a stone into a pond and the waves ripple out in a circle,” said Lydia Barrett, vice president of marketing and communications for SST, the Newark, Calif.-based company that holds Quincy’s contract for ShotSpotter Flex.
Sensors are placed in high locations, usually rooftops, Barrett said. Between 15 and 18 sensors are placed inside a square mile. Usually, sensors are set up in areas known for high crime rates. It would be unusual for sensors to be set up throughout an entire city, she said.
Barrett and Quincy Police Chief Richard Ackerman declined to say where in Quincy the sensors are located, saying they did not want the sensors to become targets of vandals. They said they also did not want criminals knowing what areas of town are covered.
Within the first few seconds after a shot is fired, information from the sensors is relayed to gunfire and acoustic experts at the company, Barrett said. Within 20 to 40 seconds, they analyze the data for type of weapon and for possible direction of travel, then relay that information to computers in Quincy patrol cars.
Information comes in to officers with an address, latitude and longitude readings, and a description of the gunfire from the company experts, Barrett said.
— Dee Riggs, World staff
QUINCY — On Oct. 8, Quincy area firefighters were demonstrating chemical reactions and energy properties in their parking lot. At one point, they heated up a small water bottle, which popped the cap off the bottle.
“It was nothing big,” said fire Lt. David Durfee.
Within minutes, however, three Quincy police cars pulled up. The popping sound had set off sensors used with the Quincy’s new ShotSpotter Flex program.
The computer-based program uses sound waves to zero in on gunshots. It’s aimed at quickly getting officers to the scene of a shooting.
The Quincy City Council signed a one-year contract to test how the system could help the city, which has been plagued with gang violence for several years, said Police Chief Richard Ackerman. The program, installed in June, costs $130,000 for a year.
Quincy is the first city in the Pacific Northwest to use a sensor-activated shot spotter program, Ackerman said.
The program also indicates directions of travel if, for example, multiple shooters are firing multiple rounds, the chief said. This should give officers more information about a crime scene before they arrive, increasing their level of safety.
Ackerman said the program identifies, within about 15 feet, where a shot is fired from. He said he is pleased with the system so far but added, “It’s only as good as the people who want to talk to us after a crime. If nobody wants to say anything about anything, it still leaves us high and dry.”
Dee Riggs: 664-7147
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