With ShotSpotter, Cincinnati police want Avondale to be a 'no-fly zone' for gunfire

CINCINNATI -- Mitch Morris wants for Avondale what any person wants for their neighborhood: a place parents can send their kids to school or to the corner store without having to worry they'll be hit by a stray bullet.

Gunfire's been a regular presence for a long, long time -- so long, in fact, that neither Morris nor Cincinnati Police Lt. Col. Paul Neudigate could recall any long stretch without a shooting victim there.

At least, not until now. During a recent 25-day period, nobody was shot in Avondale.

Both men credit ShotSpotter, a technology that pinpoints gunfire using sound waves.

 

"What it does in my community is keep people out of the graveyard, out of the penitentiary," Morris said.

RELATED: ShotSpotter already coming in handy for police

The Cincinnati Police Department has had ShotSpotter in place since Aug. 16. It's revealed Avondale averages about three instances of gunfire per day. Over the past three months, there have been a few 24-hour periods with no gunfire at all.

Police surveyed the community before introducing ShotSpotter, to get a sense of how people felt about gunfire in their neighborhood. Neudigate said he was disappointed to hear many felt gun violence wasn't a priority for police.

ShotSpotter revealed another truth: about 83 percent of gunshots go unreported to police. Nobody calls them in.

Even in those cases, and in the cases where nobody gets hurt, police still collect evidence -- specifically, shell casings. Those get entered into NIBIN, a national information network used to identify guns the same way fingerprints can be used to identify people. It gives the police department an idea of who's hanging out where, which is helpful if a shell casing is linked to a gun used in an assault or homicide.

We wanted to know if ShotSpotter might push gunfire into other neighborhoods. Neudigate said there's no evidence of that. In fact, there seems to be a "residual effect" because some criminals believe it's already working in other places, too.

"So if they want to think it's somewhere it's not and that curtails them and deters the gunfire, I will take that," Neudigate said.

In Avondale, he thinks criminals will get the message soon. Morris knows the effects of violence up close, comforting victims' friends and families through Cincinnati Works' Phoenix Program. He wants the police department to expand ShotSpotter's presence citywide.

Closer to the future, both men hope Avondale won't be among the top neighborhoods for gun violence any more.

"It's going to become a no-fly zone for gunfire activity, and that's what we hope to get to," Neudigate said.

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