Discharging of firearms: Shotspotter to aid in law enforcement

2018-02-08 06:01

“CRIMINALS must know that we are trying more innovative ways to deal with crime prevention and law enforcement and the successful implementation of Shotspotter technology is just one of the ways we are dealing with this evil.”

Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Executive Mayor Athol Trollip made this pertinent statement at a press conference held jointly with American company, Shotspotter Incorporated, and the Municipality at the Port Elizabeth City Hall on Tuesday.

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

Shotspotter Technology, piloted in Helenvale since October 2017, entails the strategic placement of acoustic sensors that immediately informs law enforcement of gunshots and provides precise information of the location of the crime.

The consideration for a broader roll-out of the R3 million pilot-project, follows seventeen arrests by the gang unit of the South African Services and arrests for attempted murder and possession of unlicensed firearms amongst others.

Member of the Mayoral Committee for Safety and Security, Cllr John Best, said before the launch of this technology in October last year, a two-week trial period showed that 99% of the shots discharged in Helenvale are not reported to the police.

“Initially we noticed a lot of gunshots in the old Helenvale area and with the technology aiding the South African Police Services (SAPS), the gang unit and the Metro Police, we could zero in on the problematic areas.

“We had about 15 streets where regular gunshot incidents occurred. This came down to about three streets at the moment.

“Three suspects were arrested for attempted murder, three for possession of firearms without a valid licence, one murder suspect was arrested and we recovered a shotgun with 54 rounds as well as a 9mm gun.

“This morning, I was informed by the SAPS gang unit that they arrested 17 suspects on suspicion of gang activity since October. In all these instances suspects were arrested when the Metro Police and SAPS responded to Shotspotter notifications following the discharge of firearms,” said MMC Best.

Shotspotter Incorporated was founded by an engineer mathematician in the United States of America and has been in business for more than twenty years.

Ralph Clark, President and Chief Executive Officer, said Nelson Mandela Bay is not unique when it comes to the under- reporting 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.

“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.

“We have three deployments in South Africa and the thing I have been the most impressed with here in Nelson Mandela Bay is the cooperation and collaboration between your local Metro Police and SAPS as collaboration between different agencies and different stakeholders is crucial.

“The statistics MMC Best has shared are very impressive but I cannot emphasize enough that they are short term statistics. The most interesting statistic is an anecdotal story that was shared with me.

“The behaviour of this community changed as people are now occupying spaces that they would otherwise not have used due to the fear of gun violence.

“People are using and playing in parks again and parents walk their children to school once again. That, despite the great work that law enforcement is doing in respect of gun violence, is perhaps the greatest lever that you have.

“This is reducing and de-normalising gun violence by communities reclaiming their space.

“We are very excited by what you are doing here. We are deployed in Chicago, Detroit and New York City and other major cities but are especially happy with the work done in smaller cities to combat gun violence.

“We are delighted to be your partner,” Clark said.

The evidence gathered with Shotspotter technology is used by prosecuting authorities and it is a crucial policing tool to gather intelligence to improve response and deployment of law enforcement.

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