ShotSpotter. Pictured above is a graphic detailing how strategically placed sensors can detect gunfire. Courtesy of ShotSpotter


Northeast News
October 3, 2012 

Kansas City Police Department is ready to combat gun violence with a high tech system called ShotSpotter Flex.

ShotSpotter officially launched Oct. 1 and covers 3.55 square miles in the urban core and includes portions of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) bus line and the Green Impact Zone. It’s also covering sections of Kansas City’s most violent areas in terms of gun violence and homicides, Maj. Ronald Fletcher of East Patrol Zone told Northeast News.

Using a series of acoustic sensors and computer software, the ShotSpotter system activates when gunshots are fired. Within seconds of gunfire, ShotSpotter can pinpoint the location of the gunshots and shooter’s position. The technology can also detect the number of shots fired, the shooter’s speed and direction of travel, and the time the gunfire occurred.

Fletcher said the technology will allow KCPD to reduce response times to incidents of gun violence and will “potentially save lives.”

Using the pinpointed location of shots fired, KCPD will be able to locate victims sooner and administer medical treatment, he said.

When KCPD responds to the incidents, officers will engage the community, knocking on resident’s doors, talking to citizens in parking lots and to area businesses regarding the shots fired, Fletcher said. Even if KCPD doesn’t garner additional information about the incident, officers may learn about other citizen concerns.

“It could delve into, ‘No, I didn’t see anything on this, but since you’re here, I did have an issue…’ Hopefully, it will foster better relationships and communication and reduce violence,” Fletcher said.

Both the KCPD and KCATA have partnered together to provide ShotSpotter, which is funded by $720,000 in federal funds secured by U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II. The grant will fund five years of ShotSpotter service and also includes equipment installation and maintenance.

“Having all the tools available to combat crime is a critical component in serving the needs of those living in all communities,” Cleaver told Northeast News via email. “I am honored to be able to help play a role in bringing the funding for ShotSpotter to Kansas City and know the police department will continue their vigilant fight to make all citizens safe.”

ShotSpotter is installed in 70 cities across the U.S. and in those cities, ShotSpotter found that an average of 80 percent of illegal gunfire goes unreported by citizens, Fletcher said.

Citizens fail to report gunfire for a number of reasons, including not wanting to become involved or thinking nothing can be done if it is reported, Fletcher said.

“Ninety percent of the time, we will be alerted (by ShotSpotter) to the address of where the shots are fired within 60 seconds of the shots being fired,” Fletcher said.

ShotSpotter will also be able to distinguish between gunshots, fireworks and a car backfiring.

Once a gunshot is detected, that data is sent to the ShotSpotter Operations Center where trained professionals analyze the data and then send the details to KCPD’s dispatch center. ShotSpotter experts may also be able to determine whether there’s multiple shooters and the possible caliber of gun used.

Fletcher stressed, however, that “Just because ShotSpotter gives us an alert within a minute doesn’t mean an officer will be there in a minute. I have to have officers that can physically respond to a call.”

East Patrol alone has 18 officer vacancies, making the department shorthanded, he said.