New Haven expands ‘ShotSpotter’ technology

Proposed map of the expanded coverage area for New Haven's gunfire detection system (WTNH / Ken Melech)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — The New Haven Police Department is expanding a high tech crime fighting tool called ‘ShotSpotter.’

It’s going from one and a half square miles to five square miles in the Elm City. It alerts officers in 45 seconds or less where shots are fired. “What we are doing is using technology for the betterment of our community,” New Haven Chief of Police, Dean M. Esserman said. “We may get an increase of calls because of the ShotSpotter,” said Lt. Herb Johnson.

Every gunshot is detected and an alert is sent to officers in the field. “Before we get an alert not only is it scrubbed and analyzed by a machine but it’s listened to by an expert 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” Esserman said.

Officers say ShotSpotter is a valuable tool. Lt. Johnson added, “It helps us to find victims, it helps us to locate ballistic evidence.”

Police say it helps them track down the guns used and where they were fired. Esserman said, “Sometimes a person hears a gunshot from a block away and they call us or two blocks away and we go to where the call was but that’s not where the shot was fired.”

The technology allows officers to get to the community faster. “We put cases together. We match guns. We match casings,” Lt. Johnson said.

The system was first put in place in 2009. New Haven Mayor Toni Harp says the expansion of ShotSpotter costs $150,000. Funds came from the state and housing authority to get it off the ground. “Often times shots are fired people are so used to hearing it they don’t call the police and police really need to know right away where guns have been fired so they can get there,” said Mayor Harp.

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