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Cincinnati Police Happy With ShotSpotter

Michael E. Keating

The Cincinnati Police Department is pleased with the initial results of ShotSpotter, which is being used to cover a three-square mile area of Avondale.

ShotSpotter uses sensors on rooftops and street lights to listen for gunfire and notify police in 30-45 seconds. There are twenty sensors per square mile.
The system was launched on August 16, 2017.  It also provides some coverage for parts of North Avondale, Mt. Auburn, Walnut Hills and Corryville.

Assistant Police Chief Neudigate told city council's Law and Public Safety committee this week ShotSpotter is alerting officers to gunshots that they would otherwise not know about.

"Of the 257 activations since we went live, we only have a corresponding 911 call for 16 percent," Neudigate said. "So 84 percent of the shots fired activity in the coordinate area is not being reported to the police department."

The majority of the gunshots recorded by the system are between 9 p.m. and midnight.  The most active day is Sunday, with Wednesday being the second highest for the initial four months.

"We all hope that Sunday will be a day of rest and leisure, but unfortunately that is not the case," Neudigate said. "So we need to make sure that we have adequate staffing in the area on Sundays to prevent further gun violence."

Once police are notified about gunfire, officers can immediately respond to begin an investigation.  That allows them to collect evidence like shell casings, and to also determine if there is video on the gunfire from cameras in the area.  

The system also lets police confirm or deny whether a shooting actually happened where a victim reported being shot.  

Neudigate said letting the bad guys know it is out there has a deterrent effect.

"In Avondale, they know it's there, they're posting on social media as we've talked about and I think that we have been a decrease in some of the incidents as a direct result."

Law and Public Safety Committee chairman Christopher Smitherman said the ShotSpotter data confirms the perception of some Avondale residents.

"Of how they've been living, meaning 257 gunshots happening around them in their community is a reason why there is that fear," Smitherman said. "These things have been happening and now we have technology that is only confirming the reality that they've been living in."

Council member Kevin Flynn said it is great to see that technology is actually making people safer in Avondale.

"People are expensive, technology is really relatively cheap," Flynn said. "This is exactly what local government should be doing, and must do as we move forward."

Police have not said if ShotSpotter will be expanded to other city neighborhoods.  As with any technology, finding money for it in the tight city budget can be a hurdle.

In November 2016, Cincinnati Police told a city council committee the Avondale system would cost $235,000 to install.  The department also said it would have a $200,000 a year maintenance fee.