Funding in hand to trigger trackers of gunfire in city

By John W. Goodwin Jr.

The system should be operating in Youngstown by April.

YOUNGSTOWN — Officials have received the big check needed to bring an acoustic gunshot-location system to the city this spring.

Mayor Jay Williams, Police Chief Jimmy Hughes, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, and Gregg Rowland, vice president of ShotSpotter Inc., gathered Friday around a large cardboard check made out to the city for $530,000. The city will add $100,000 to $150,000 to the federal grant money.

Those funds will be used to purchase and install ShotSpotter technology.

ShotSpotter is an electronic system that uses sensors and satellite mapping to pinpoint gunfire within 10 feet of its origin and speed up response time. The system sets up sensors in a zone, uses triangulation to locate the source of the sound and relays that information to a dispatcher. It can also determine the shooter’s speed and direction of travel when multiple shots are fired.

Though some say the system can pinpoint gunfire within a 10-foot range, Rowland said the company will guarantee up to only a 75-foot range. He said some environmental conditions may make the system less than 10 feet accurate at certain times.

Rowland said the system, whether at 10 feet or 75 feet, is a great tool for local law enforcement. He said 52 cities use the technology, and it’s been credited with helping to save the lives of 260 people since 2005.

Hughes said the technology will be an excellent means of reducing the amount of gunfire in the city. He said the city received more than 2,000 calls for gunfire in the last year — something the new technology should have a major impact on stopping.

“We see this as a deterrent, that is our biggest thing to just have less gunfire,” said Hughes.

Hughes said the system is sensitive enough to distinguish gunfire from other noises such as car backfire or fireworks. The sounds generated by the various noises, he said, send a different echo detected by the sensors.

The system will cover two square miles, but part of its ability to deter gun use will be that no one will know in what two miles the system is being used. Hughes said not disclosing the location of the sensors will also help protect the system from vandalism.

Hughes said the city has an agreement with ShotSpotter Inc. covering the system for maintenance and normal wear and tear over the next three years.

The chief wants to see the system up and running by April.

Williams said the system will be used in conjunction with crime-fighting tools already in place in the city. He said there will still be saturation patrols by city officers and efforts such as the gun buy-back program.

Williams also said there will still be a need for involvement from the community and various block watches throughout the city.

According to Ryan, a key component of economic development is the ability to have safe streets and the ShotSpotter technology is a tool to make that happen. He said bringing the technology to Youngstown is a great collaborative effort.

“This is what it’s all about, having the mayor come to our office and work with us on projects that are needed,” said Ryan. “This is what earmarks are all about, your voice being heard in Washington and dollars coming back to the community.”

Hughes said residents should see the effects of those dollars immediately with the reduction in crime across the board. He said when people are less likely to use guns, they are less likely commit crimes involving guns.

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