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Rocky Mount, N.C. Police Leverage Gunshot Detection from SST

Unfortunately, gun violence occurs everywhere. Gunfire data is becoming more valuable to law enforcement agencies across the country as they are dealing with the impact of gun violence in their cities, no matter what the size.

Located in eastern North Carolina, the city of Rocky Mount covers over 35 square miles and has a population of more than 57,000 residents. It is located on Interstate 95, with heavy traffic flow from New York to Florida, which often comes with problems or criminal activity.

Rocky Mount Police chose SST’s ShotSpotter Flex gunfire detection, alert and analysis solution to deliver the critical data they need to respond to illegal gunfire faster and safer. Sgt. Kevin Bern handles Planning and Accreditation for the department. His duties also include IT, reservoirs, crime analysis, administrative functions, to name a few. PSIT spoke to Sgt. Bern and SST’s President & CEO Ralph Clark about ShotSpotter Flex to find out how SST’s solution benefits agencies and in turn, citizens across the country. Bern said the Asst. City Manager saw ShotSpotter Flex at a conference and brought it to the police department. “It was a pretty cool technology on paper… it looked great,” Bern stated. They set up live fire demos with SST featuring different calibers and scenarios. The results impressed Bern and the department enough to pursue grants in order to reduce any kind of gunfire violence they had. SST partnered with The Ferguson Group in Washington, D.C. to help facilitate and look for grants. They found a $350,000 grant and “tailored it to our needs,” Bern commented.

The solution went live on July 1, 2011 in Rocky Mount. That was good timing, considering the 4th of July holiday always comes with “celebratory gunfire.” It provided a good baseline for Rocky Mount Police’s statistics. Once ShotSpotter Flex was turned on, Bern noticed a spike in arrests and reduction in crime, partly due to word on the street about SST’s technology. “It has helped us more with analysis than we thought,” Bern noted.

The Rocky Mount Police Department has made 15 arrests related to illegal gun usage and crime since the implementation of SST Inc.’s ShotSpotter Flex solution. In one incident, ShotSpotter Flex alerted the Police Department to the scene of a shooting. Upon arrival, officers found shell-casings outside the premises as pinpointed by ShotSpotter. With the probable cause to then search the house, officers made entry and were able to recover five handguns, three of which were identified as stolen. One of the guns had been hidden in a child’s toy box, resulting in an arrest for child-endangerment. Officers also arrested a felon for being in possession of a handgun.

How It Works

ShotSpotter Flex is the first subscription-based model of gunshot location technology. According to Clark, ShotSpotter is a tried-and-true solution, and the Flex is a repackaged, more affordable version with an “expanded footprint” with more miles covered for investigative efficiency. The old legacy model would’ve required the purchase of new hardware and the maintenance of the acoustic sensors. Key features of ShotSpotter Flex include: constant, 360-degree wide-area acoustic surveillance throughout coverage areas; immediate alerts and precise location anywhere in the coverage area; detailed forensic data for investigation, prosecution and analysis; easily accessible single and cumulative historical incident reports; subscription-based service without the burden and costs of acquiring and managing technology.

The brand ShotSpotter now refers to SST’s product family of Gunfire Alert and Analysis Solutions, which provide comprehensive and always-on acoustic surveillance and gunfire detection, for accurate, real-time, actionable intelligence on gunfire incidents in a variety of challenging urban environments. The product family includes the following SST ShotSpotter solutions:

ShotSpotter Flex™:

The newest solution offering from SST, ShotSpotter Flex is an affordable, subscription-based gunfire alert and analysis service that is scalable and provides world-class gunshot detection. It is organically less costly, more easily deployed, and does not require the extensive up-front costs, IT resources, and expenses of traditionally purchased technology systems. ShotSpotter Flex also features the ShotSpotter® Qualified Alerts Service for instant review and qualification of gunshot incidents by highly trained SST gunfire and acoustic experts. All gunfire incident data detected by ShotSpotter Flex and qualified by SST experts is quickly delivered to 9-1-1 dispatch centers, public safety answering points (PSAPs) and mobile patrol officers who have immediate actionable information to more safely approach and respond to dangerous situations.

ShotSpotter OnSite™:

The flagship and world-leading ShotSpotter gunfire detection solution, delivered to non-U.S. countries and agencies that require the centralized control of an on-premise solution.

ShotSpotter SpecialOps™:

Portable, full-featured gunfire detection systems for short-term and temporary safety and security operations, designed for ease of setup, takedown and storage.

ShotSpotter Security & Critical Infrastructure Protection™:

Instant detection, location, and assessment of firearm or explosive-based attacks giving personnel rapid and immediate intelligence needed for faster, safer and smarter response. “Rebranding our company, offering our solution in a subscription-based service, and providing the critical intelligence and expertise in qualifying gunfire incidents affirm our commitment to helping reduce gun violence,” Clark stated.

ShotSpotter Flex is more affordable, more easily deployed, and delivered without the extensive up-front costs, IT resources, and expenses of traditional technology acquisition. Like the ShotSpotter flagship gunshot location solution, ShotSpotter Flex delivers critical intelligence and data that public safety agencies need to respond quickly and more safely to gunfire incidents.

According to Clark, SST is the only company in the world to use a “multi-sensor approach.” ShotSpotter Flex delivers instant, accurate tactical awareness. Immediate alerts are sent, even when no one calls 9-1-1. Officers receive precise location anywhere within the coverage area, both latitude / longitude and street address. In addition, ShotSpotter Flex gives the number and exact time of the rounds fired as well as shooter(s) position, speed and direction of travel (if moving). Its data can help analysis distinguish between assault rifles versus handguns.

Once a shot goes off, SST verifies it as gunfire through its acoustic sensors set up around the coverage area. SST has a 24/7/365 Incident Review Center in California with acoustic experts who are highly trained in gunfire characteristics and can tell the difference between a firecracker and a gunshot. In Rocky Mount’s case, its coverage area is 3 square miles. An alert is then sent to CAD with a specific location / address and other data regarding the gunshots. The lag time between getting a phone call about possible gunfire to officers on the scene is greatly reduced, thanks to ShotSpotter Flex. Upon arriving on scene, responding officers used to guess where the gunfire took place. Most citizens who call in say, ‘I heard some shots around my house,” which is not very precise. Now, officers have satellite maps in their patrol cars and SST’s solution tells them the shot(s) originated from the southwest corner of the house. The technology works similar to GPS in a car, giving geographic locations within feet.


The solution is delivering on a 24/7 basis, so agencies really get the value of the data they’re receiving from ShotSpotter Flex. Because of the preciseness of the alerts, officers can close out calls faster and recover more physical forensic evidence for use in court and prosecutions. Clark said in many cities, 80 percent of citizens don’t call when they hear gunshots, and 20 percent call late. In most cases, people only know a general area of where they heard the gunshot, so a lot of time is wasted looking for the exact location / address. This gives a significant productivity advantage to departments. Their response is fast, which helps saves lives.

Key benefits of ShotSpotter Flex include: enhanced situational awareness and officer safety; faster evidence collection and witness identification; increased gun crime arrests and weapons confiscations; improved community relations and quality of life; proactive crime analysis and strategic deterrence. ShotSpotter Flex data supports forensic analysis with the sequence of rounds fired with the time and position of data for each round. Also included: type or types of weapons used; possible or relative caliber of weapons; number of weapons or shooters; weapon cyclic rates.

ShotSpotter Flex supports long-term crime deterrence by generating awareness of all gunfire, not just reported incidents. Cumulative data enables proactive crime analysis and detailed data enhances investigation and prosecution. All of this results in improved community relations with law enforcement.

Gunshot location technology accelerates Investigations and Forensics with faster location of evidence and witnesses. It also improves the productivity of investigative resources. Forensic data strengthens investigations. In addition, empirical data strengthens prosecution. Incident data is court-admissible and defensible. In terms of Crime Analysis and Intelligence, ShotSpotter Flex provides in-depth information otherwise unattainable. This technology strengthens predictive analysis and intelligence, while improving crime reporting with analysis to track improvements and support funding.

ShotSpotter Flex also serves as a cost-effective force multiplier that provides instant, accurate situational awareness to law enforcement, police and public safety agencies. Not only is the cost structure more affordable, but the solution also helps agencies manage their resources more effectively, by speeding up investigation, supporting prosecution and deploying patrol officers where and when they’re needed most.

ShotSpotter Flex’s qualified alerts service provide instantaneous assessment and qualification of all alerts by a highly trained team of SST gunfire and acoustics experts, 24/7/365. This takes away the burden and time on the part of 9-1-1 call-takers, dispatchers or field personnel to analyze alert data while managing other critical tasks. “Our subscription-based offering addresses the financial challenges faced by agencies to do more with less, and provides access to an affordable solution that has proven to be effective in supplementing police resources and helping communities become safer from gun violence,” Clark commented.

Data delivered by all the ShotSpotter solutions, including ShotSpotter Flex, is accurate and actionable, and includes immediate gunfire alerts, even when no one calls 9-1-1 to report; precise location anywhere within the coverage area (including latitude/longitude and street address); number and exact time of rounds fired; and shooter position, speed and direction of travel (if moving).

The benefits to the community are priceless. Residents see officers responding to incidents, arrests being made, help for victims happens quicker. People feel more confident that the police and the city care about them and their areas. Communities and law enforcement are able to help youth at risk more by creating real deterrence to illegal gun use and engaging them sooner in community-based social programs. People begin to take more accountability for their communities as safety returns to the neighborhood. Quality of life improves for community residents – they begin to feel safer. The positive effects are far-reaching: Economic vitality begins to shift as business and people invest more in safe communities. Although only launched seven months ago, 10 agencies are already using ShotSpotter Flex.

SST’s technical support has been “great” according to Bern. If there is a problem, SST handles it on their end. The feedback from Rocky Mount’s citizens has been really positive, as they feel a sense of comfort and safety now.

The end result is the data really helps in getting convictions. It is a viable technology used in prosecutions for probable causes in federal firearms charges. In investigations, it helps with evidence detection. For example, if officers know a shot was fired at a certain corner 10 seconds ago, and a person is standing there upon their arrival, they will likely question him / her. “There is no gray area,” Bern explained. ShotSpotter Flex is constantly on so it detects gunshots at any hour. The result is more situational awareness for Rocky Mount’s officers.

Photos courtesy of Rocky Mount, N.C. Police and SST.

Published in Public Safety IT, Jan/Feb 2012

Rating : Not Yet Rated

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