After its first month of being rolled out, ShotSpotter in Mobile has shown success and has raised some questions.
While there has been successful detection of gunfire, the system is alerting law enforcement to perhaps a more complicated issue — people are not and have not been reporting it.
Cmd. Kevin Levy, who leads the Mobile Police Department’s Cyber Intelligence Unit, told Lagniappe over its first month in operation well over 100 shooting events have been verified through ShotSpotter, a network of monitors and cameras used to surveil strategic intersections and streets in the city and alert authorities to shootings.
Of those 100, Levy said some have been non-violent or uninvolved. He said MPD can directly attribute between five and 10 arrests to the new technology. One of the first ones was within hours of bringing the system online in July.
Though the system went live as a “soft launch” in one area of the city, Levy said it is now fully operational. He said the number of cameras and devices is fluctuating and couldn’t provide a concrete number on how many there are. He said MPD is considering further expansions of the infrastructure and even planning to implement it into the agency’s current network of business and private security feeds.
As officials review the first month, Levy said they have quickly identified areas of success and areas for improvement.
Among successes, Levy said officers are able to respond to specific intersections quickly. He said in some cases police are on the scene within two minutes of a detected event. He said this has compounding benefits, including less time and manpower required to respond to a call and freeing up officers for other needs.
“The system is not only helping curb gun violence, but it’s also improving the police response to other calls,” Levy said.
Regarding areas for improvement, Levy said Mobile ShotSpotter has exposed how prevalent non-reporting is in certain neighborhoods of the city. Though he did not disclose which areas he was referring to, he said this knowledge is the first step to bridging any disconnects or mistrust that may exist.
“We want to hear directly from the residents, specifically those in areas that are affected disproportionately by gunfire,” Levy said. “Why is it that they are not reporting? Or are they fearful to report? Or afraid of retaliation? Or don’t want to get involved? Or don’t believe the police are going to respond in a way that they would expect? Whatever the reason is, we have to get honest information so we can make the changes that we need to.”
Levy said in the upcoming months MPD plans on having police officers begin collective street walks to engage and interact with residents in those areas.
Even with all the bells and whistles of ShotSpotter, Levy said the most effective tool for law enforcement is when citizens get involved in reporting and providing information. He said cameras and mics will quickly get officers to the right intersection of an incident, but they won’t provide critical context, such as who is behind a trigger, why they’re firing or who they’re firing at. That kind of information has to come from witnesses willing to report.
Fully implementing Mobile ShotSpotter is the beginning of Phase Two of MPD’s Project Echo Stop which launched in March of this year. Phase Three involves fully integrating the system into the city’s police strategy and Phase 4 is to begin studying results and opportunities for additional funding and grants.
This page is available to our subscribers. Join us right now to get the latest local news from local reporters for local readers.
The best deal is found by clicking here. Click here right now to find out more. Check it out.
Already a member of the Lagniappe family? Sign in by clicking here