Cincinnati ShotSpotter technology may expand to more neighborhoods

Posted at 11:13 PM, Mar 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-14 23:13:13-04

CINCINNATI -- Mitch Morris' office is covered in posters and photos. They're family members who've lost a loved one to gun violence, and signs imploring people to put down the guns.

Morris leads the Phoenix program at Cincinnati Works, helping men and women with violent and criminal pasts find steady jobs and a better future.

He knows the stories of those shooting victims on his office walls. He remembers.

"It stays with me when you've got these kids -- how can it not?" he said.

That's why Morris wants to see the Cincinnati Police Department's ShotSpotter program expand beyond his Avondale neighborhood. The system, which uses microphones and soundwaves to pinpoint where somebody fired a gun, was installed last August

Morris saw gun violence drop since then. Police found roughly 83 percent of gunshots were going unreported -- nobody called 911.

Then, during one 25-day period late last year, nobody was shot in Avondale; neither Morris nor Lt. Col. Paul Neudigate could recall any similar stretch before ShotSpotter arrived.

"If a guy is getting ready to do something and he knows ShotSpotter is out there, he’s going to think twice before he pulls the trigger to shoot it," Morris said. 

RELATED: They want Avondale to be a 'no-fly zone' for gunfire

For those who don't think twice, an arrest can be swift. Cincinnati police said that's what happened Friday, when they got a ShotSpotter alert on Blair Avenue. They said they found Michael Johnson, 29, with a stolen handgun, along with several warrants for his arrest. He was booked on charges of drug abuse, having a weapon under disability, receiving a stolen firearm and carrying a concealed weapon.

Vice Mayor Christoper Smitherman said ShotSpotter technology can detect gunfire from surrounding neighborhoods, too. In other words: Criminals don't necessarily know if they're in range within the vicinity of Avondale.

The police department hasn't said yet which neighborhood might be next. Smitherman, who's chairman of City Council's Law and Public Safety Committee, believes Over-the-Rhine and some areas on the West Side could benefit. But ultimately, he said the decision is up to the experts. 

Smitherman wants to make sure people understand the technology works, and then help finding funding for an expansion, likely to cost about $250,000.

"The bottom line is, don’t have a firearm in our city illegally. Don’t deploy that firearm or we’re going to find you, we’re going to arrest you, and we’re going to prosecute you. I think that’s the key message that we want to send to the bad guys," Smitherman said.

Morris hopes the technology stops that from happening in the first place. He wants fewer people incarcerated, and he hopes ShotSpotter is another reason for them to think about their actions.

"I would tell any community that you should have ShotSpotter, because if you do put it in effect, you’re saving people from going to the penitentiary and you’re saving them from going in the graveyard," Morris said.