Technology Claims Some Credit As Crime Rates Fall

Jan 16, 2015

Overall crime is down in the city of Springfield, Massachusetts, according to the local police. There is evidence suggesting police use of technology to combat gun violence is paying off.

     Total crime was down 19 percent last year according to the Springfield Police Department. Incidents of gunfire logged by acoustic sensors are down by 50 percent, according to the company that owns and markets the gunshot detection technology.

      Police Sergeant John Delaney, the spokesman for the Springfield Police Dept., said the ShotSpotter gunfire detection system is one factor contributing the city’s declining crime rate.

       "The technology does work and it has been proven statistically in Springfield," said Delaney.

       The maker of ShotSpotter said gunfire incidents declined by more than 20 percent in the 31 U.S. communities that had the technology deployed in both 2013 and 2014.

      ShotSpotter uses acoustic sensors to pinpoint the location of gunfire and transmit the information within seconds to police dispatchers and to laptop computers in police cruisers. A map on the computer screen shows where the gun was fired and there is a recording of the shots.

       Delaney said an analysis of data reveals most of the gunshots detected by the technology were not reported by a call to 911, and when police were called it was typically five minutes or more after the gunfire occurred.

       " This allows police an advantage. We respond within 15 seconds of shots being fired and a lot of times arrests are made and evidence is gathered. It helps us tremendously with gunfire incidents."

       The ShotSpotter data is also used to help direct police resources to proactively combat crime.

      " This technology tells us exactly where gun shots are most often being fired. We put police in these high crime areas and this activity is curtailed."

       The gunshot detection technology covers roughly six square miles of Springfield’s total 33- square mile area. 

       Delaney said Springfield has experienced drops in nearly all major categories of crime, not just gun violence.

       " Robbery is down 4 percent, burglary is down 25 percent, larcenies down 22 percent, motor vehicle theft down 14 percent from 2013-2014. These are big numbers," said Delaney. " It shows the strategies we are using at the Springfield Police Department are working."

        Springfield was an early adapter of the gunshot detection technology. ShotSpotter was deployed initially in 2008.   A community organization raised money to expand the area covered by the system in 2013.

        Jose Claudio of the New North Citizens Council said $125,000 was donated by business owners and apartment building property managers as part of a safe neighborhood initiative.

      "  They all came in and donated some money, which I thought was excellent."

        The ShotSpotter system is used more than 80 U.S. communities including Worcester, MA, Hartford, CT, and Rochester, NY.