Representatives of ShotSpotter and law enforcement personnel pitched the use of the gunshot detection system at a meeting Monday night, saying it would make Huntington Station safer.
The system, which uses acoustic monitoring to detect and alert police to the sounds of gunfire, will be restored for use in Huntington Station and other communities around Suffolk County with high crime rates.
ShotSpotter was first put into service in 2011 but halted in 2018 because of complaints, including many from police officers, about inaccurate reports. Some residents opposed the use of ShotSpotter but many others, tired of crime, supported its use.
But police and ShotSpotter say the system has been improved since then, and now send audio files first to analysts who assess the accuracy of the report and then notify police, in less than a minute. In the past, older technology has confused jackhammers, car backfires and other loud noises with gunfire. The company has analysts based in California and Washington, DC.
While ShotSpotter declined Monday to say how many sensors would be placed in Huntington Station, a total of 352 of the devices will be installed around Suffolk County. Data is considered proprietary information, belonging to ShotSpotter.
The meeting was held at the Second Precinct stationhouse.
Suffolk County Chief Assistant District Attorney Allen Bode said, “It’s going to save lives and prevent people from shooting guns.”
Richard Bash, a ShotSpotter representative and former deputy police chief in Columbus, Ohio, said that the technology is more than 90 percent accurate. The sensors triangulate on an area when they detect the sound of gunfire, and send information, along with a Google map, to the police. That sends officers to the scene of a shooting far faster than a call routed from 911 to the police department, he said.
That speed enables police to save the lives of shooting victims, detect more precisely where a gun was fired, and more easily and accurately collect evidence, such as bullet casings, that eventually can be used to convict a criminal. Bash noted that when callers report hearing gunfire to 911 dispatchers, they are often unsure of where the sound has come from.
Bash and others said that only about 20 percent of gunfire incidents were reported every year, a number supported by the thinktank Brookings Institution based on studies of Oakland, Calif., and Washington, DC.
The company said it is asking the support of Huntington residents to encourage institutions, such as utility services, to allow the installation of the sensors on their property or utilty poles.
ShotSpotter provides only audio reports, but representatives said Monday night that the system could be adapted to work with video systems.
Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney has supported the use of ShotSpotter and, in April, the county legislature approved funding for the system.
The company has changed its name to SoundThinking but the detection system is still called ShotSpotter.