Cincinnati police to install system that will help track shootings

CINCINNATI -- The city will soon install high-tech devices that track shootings in the hopes it will reduce gun violence and give police officers more information as they respond to a scene.

ShotSpotter, a gunfire detection system already employed by nearby Canton, Ohio, uses a network of microphones to identify the sound of gunshots and analyze exactly where those shots might have come from within seconds. The system will be up and running in Cincinnati in the coming weeks.

The system will help police officers identify the location of a shooting and, more importantly, track shootings that go unreported.

Police proposed the device should cover Mount Auburn, Walnut Hills, Evanston, Corryville and Avondale, where 20 percent of gunfire occurred between January 2014 and March 2016.

The SpotShotter costs $235,000 to cover a three-square mile radius for a year.

Sgt. Dan Hils, president of  the Cincinnati Fraternal Order of Police, said ShotSpotter will equip officers with valuable information before they arrive on scene.

"When you get a 'shots fired' run and you know the intersection, you know the address, you can actually respond and make a better safety plan," Hils said. "More information is good. More information should help your response and (help you) be all the way around better informed, which gives me a feeling of security."

In addition to pinpointing the location of gunfire, ShotSpotter will also filter out some reports of shootings that aren't legitimate.

"The ShotSpotter can actually say, 'No, those weren't shots, that was a backfire or firecrackers or some other type of fireworks or loud industrial noise,'" Hils said.

The technology goes beyond officer safety; the community will also benefit from the new system, Hils said.

"If you increase and make more specific our response, I think common sense would tell you we're going to have more arrests. We have more arrests, in the long run shootings go down. If shootings go down, then I would think everyone would be happy," Hils said.

Although the technology is not cheap, Lt. Steve Saunders said you can't put a price on reducing gun violence.

"I know it's very expensive, but at the same time, long-term, it's going to pay off big dividends for the City of Cincinnati and certainly how we serve the public and hopefully increase the safety and security of the communities where this will be implemented," Saunders said.

The Cincinnati Police Department will meet Friday to discuss the implementation process. The official start date has not yet been announced.

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