QUINCY - A system aimed at finding gunshots in Quincy, which aren't reported, is active.
Police Chief Richard Ackerman made a presentation on the ShotSpotter system to the city council during a recent meeting. The city agreed to a one-year contract with California-based SST for $130,000 in December. SST manufactures and runs the system.
The company installed acoustic sensors designed to pick up the sound of gunshots or explosions in the city, according to the company's information. When a sensor detects a noise, a report is sent to a data center, where the location is pinpointed and an alert is sent to police.
Officer Tom Clark said the system went active during the summer and has located about 20 gunshots out of about 7,500 sounds caught by the sensors. The system sorts out noises such as fireworks.
"The software captures all of the shots fired, possible shots fired and about 30 other categories," Ackerman said.
The chief demonstrated the system using an incident which occurred in the Quincy Community Center parking lot on Saturday.
"There was a fight ... and somebody pulled a gun out and cranked off a round," he said. "Our ShotSpotter picked it up pretty quickly and we were there shortly thereafter."
Officers arrived on the scene within a minute, but one side had fled the scene, Clark said. The officer smelled burnt gunpowder when they arrived. In the past, it could take several minutes before police arrived, if anyone called to report the sound. The delay depended on how busy the Multi-Agency Communication Center (MACC) is. The center handles all the 9-1-1 calls in Grant County.
Ackerman played the recording of the gunshot for the council.
"That was identified and confirmed by ShotSpotter as a gunshot," the chief said. "It's helping us get there much faster."
When Councilmember Paul Worley questioned if police caught anyone using the system, Ackerman replied they hadn't.
"We've responded on all the ones we wouldn't have gotten a call from the public on," Ackerman said. "That aspect has been very beneficial because, for example, the one after the soccer game had ShotSpotter not told us about it, we would have never responded because nobody called us on it."
He explained the system is alerting police faster and allowing them to arrive on the scene sooner than they would if they relied on people calling 9-1-1.
"From that perspective, it's been very beneficial. Have we caught anyone red-handed or leaving the scene yet? No, we haven't ... It certainly increases the potential that we get there and arrive on scene faster than we would otherwise," Ackerman said. "Luckily, there has been no victims. No one, that we know of, has been shot. We don't have any bullet holes in cars, in windows of houses or anything else."
Councilmember Scott Lybbert said the system is valuable for identifying the problem areas in the city.
MACC recently allowed the police department to place the software on its computers, Ackerman said.
"So now if MACC gets alerted as fast as we do, they can broadcast it on the air. Say I'm sitting in an office, or not near my computer, I wouldn't know that ShotSpotter has been activated, but if I'm on the air and MACC tells me, I can take off and go respond to it," he said. "They just went online a month ago ... We finally talked them into going through the process."
If the council decides to continue the contract for another year, it will cost $100,000.
Grant County Sheriff Tom Jones allowed the software to be loaded onto deputies' laptop computers, Ackerman said.
"If they're close by they'll respond and they'll know what they're responding to," he said.
The chief pointed out the officers respond as quickly as possible.