The sound of gunfire crackled from a computer on the desk of East Chicago Deputy Police Chief John Verbich.
“That’s not a regular gun,” he said.
The possibility it was a fully automatic weapon. How many shots were fired. The possibility of multiple shooters. Where the gun was being aimed. The location from which it was fired. Where to look for the shooter or shooters.
All that information and more is provided to the cruisers of East Chicago police officers within 60 seconds of shots being fired in the city thanks to technology the city bought about a year ago to help deter crime.
ShotSpotter is the latest in intelligence-led policing and tells officers where gunshot has been fired within a 25-meter radius.
In East Chicago, ShotSpotter sensors are installed and in operation 24/7 in various locations throughout the city. They map the gunfire and provide gunshot audio to police, The Times reported.
It also gives officers an idea of what they’re facing before arriving on the scene.
The shots Verbich listened to last Friday in his office were from a shooting earlier in the year in which no injuries were reported. As recently as July 26, ShotSpotter detected shots and led officers to a murder victim’s body.
Police Chief Mark Becker said the victim “was exactly on the red dot.”
ShotSpotter, which Becker said costs about $35,000 per square mile annually, narrows the shooting area. In the past, there may be several calls to police from residents scattered throughout a neighborhood who reported hearing shots.
Elements like the wind can make a homeowner think shots were closer than they were.
ShotSpotter keeps officers from racing to an area far from the radius of the actual gunfire.
“It’s unbelievably helpful,” Verbich said. “It’s a deterrent.”
It can help in a case because what the shooter tells police and what ShotSpotter detects can be two different things. Police can hear if there are gaps in the gunfire. If a shooter says he shot at someone in self-defense, that might not be the case.
The information generated by ShotSpotter can be used in court.
Verbich said ShotSpotter can send a representative explaining to a court how the technology worked in a given situation. It also lets officers know a particular backyard to look for an injured or dying gunshot victim without having to get a search warrant.
Sometimes the technology will detect what might be fireworks. In this case, the technology tells officers “possible gunshots” have been detected. Police usually can know the difference.
“When you have a firework, it’s an explosion,” Verbich said. “When you have a gunshot, the bullet is breaking the sound barrier — that’s where the ‘crack’ comes from.”
One example Verbich pulled up on his computer was, in addition to gunfire, several “whizzing” noises. He said it was the sound of bullets “whizzing” by at close vicinity to a sensor.
In another example, the gunshots were extremely loud because the sensor was only 60 feet away from the shooter. That shooting resulted in a death.
Source: Chicago Defender