‘Shotspotter’ reduces gunfire in Helenvale area

2018-02-14 06:01
From left are Shotspotter Chief Executive Officer Ralph Clark, NMB Mayor Athol Trollip and MMC for Safety and Security John Best at the municipality’s meeting with the Shotspotter management delegation from the United States. Photos:THANDI SETOKOE

From left are Shotspotter Chief Executive Officer Ralph Clark, NMB Mayor Athol Trollip and MMC for Safety and Security John Best at the municipality’s meeting with the Shotspotter management delegation from the United States. Photos:THANDI SETOKOE

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SINCE the official launch of Shotspotter in October last year, the police force has seen a massive decline in gunfire incidents in the Helenvale area.

This, according to Member of the Mayoral Committee for Safety and Security at Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality (NMBM) John Best.

Best was speaking at a joint media conference with the American company, Shotspotter Incorporated, held at the City Hall last week Tuesday.

Shotspotter technology entails the strategic placement of acoustic sensors that immediately informs law enforcement entities of gunshots and provides precise information of the location of the crime.

This R3 million pilot project was installed in an effort to help quell the scourge of gang violence in the notorious northern areas.

Following the installation of the technology, in less than two months more than 800 shots were recorded in Helenvale. Best has, however, now confirmed that according to joint reports from the Metro Police and South African Police Service, there has been a drastic reduction in gunfire in the area.

“In December last year, we had 10 days of zero gunfire and in January we had eight days. Through the intervention, there has only been three basic areas where the gunfire is happening.

“In the beginning, the shots fired were traceable from close to 20 streets, but we have now confined it to three streets,” Best said.

He also added that in the past three months, the Gang Unit has made 17 arrests, directly related to investigating Shotspotter incidents.

“These arrests include three attempted murders, three unlicensed firearms, one murder and a recovered shotgun with 54 rounds,” Best added.

Sharing his observations about Shotspotter particularly in South Africa as well as in the United States, Chief Executive Officer of Shotspotter Incorporated Ralph Clark said Nelson Mandela Bay is not unique with respect to the underreporting issue of gun violence.

“In the USA, about 10% of all gun violence is reported by residents. When gun violence is not reported, the police cannot respond and as a result, gun violence becomes normalised,” Clark said.

He added that gun violence reduction and prevention is a team effort between various technologies as well as between law enforcement and the community.

“I am really impressed with the level of cooperation between the local Metro Police and SAPS. By enabling the police to respond to these events in real time, we can then communicate to the community that the police do care and build trusting relationships and community capacity to address gun violence,” Clark ­added.

NMBM Mayor, Athol Trollip, said they had been on a think tank with experts around civic interventions for the Helenvale area.

“The one thing about that community is that you can go there on any given day and it looks like one of those peaceful communities, but then it erupts in violent crime.

“People get killed in the crossfire and there’s collateral damage,” Trollip said, adding that he had two instances where he had to visit homes of toddlers who had been killed (both shot in the head).

The mayor said the critical thing about shotspotter is that it is inanimate.

“Nobody has to tell the police who fired a shot because that comes with extreme intimidation and even results in revenge killings in gang-infested areas.

“If we can combine Shotspotter with CCTV, it takes the responsibility away from the society.”

Trollip said, providing they can get the necessary funding allocation, the roll-out of this technology will be considered for other crime-ridden areas in future.

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