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Gunfire location sensor data show residents fail to call 911

Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy announces installatiShotSpotter gunshot detectitechnology news confernece 3420 W. 63rd Street Oct. 25 2012 . |

Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy announces the installation of ShotSpotter gunshot detection technology at a news confernece at 3420 W. 63rd Street on Oct. 25, 2012 . | Sun-Times file photo

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Updated: April 16, 2014 12:42AM

ShotSpotter gunfire location sensors have shown that residents of Oakland, Calif., vastly underreported hearing gunshots, according to a company that provides the same technology to Chicago.

The company, SST Inc., identified 8,769 shooting incidents in Oakland in 2012 and 2013, but only 13 percent of them resulted in a 911 call within 30 minutes and half a mile of the incident, said Ralph Clark, president and CEO of the firm.

“People don’t want to get involved,” Clark said.

In a report released Wednesday, the company said: “Those areas which suffer the highest gunfire rates fail to report gunfire, while those which experience the lower rates are more likely to report.”

In 2013, the Chicago Police Department recorded 414 murders, most of which were the result of gunfire. There were 1,863 “shooting incidents,” which include fatal and nonfatal shootings and can involve multiple victims, police said.

To speed up the response to such shootings, the Chicago Police Department has been using ShotSpotter technology in neighborhoods on the South Side and West Side, where most of the violence occurs. The sensors are primarily in the Englewood and Harrison districts, police said.

Clark would not provide specifics about the Chicago program, but he said there are roughly 45 to 60 sensors here.

The company’s sensors cover 3 square miles in Chicago. There have been about 2,695 gunfire alerts since the sensors were installed in August 2012 — and some of those alerts involved multiple shots, Chicago Police said.

SST didn’t release figures about the ratio of Chicago’s gunfire alerts to 911 calls. The department will conduct its own review, police said.

Clark said every gunfire alert is sent to his company initially. His employees determine whether the sound was a shot or something else, such as a car backfiring, he said.

Police are notified when the sound is deemed a gunshot. The police are usually told in 35 to 45 seconds, Clark said.

“Maybe one in six sounds that you review are gunshots that you tell the police about,” he said.

Clark said the technology is able to pinpoint gunshots within a 10-meter area. The company can tell police whether the shooter was firing an automatic weapon or a handgun; whether there were several shooters; and whether the shooter was moving, he said.

In August 2012, Chicago entered a $200,000 annual contract to lease the ShotSpotter sensors. Asset forfeiture funds cover the cost, police said.


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