Long Beach city police officers will soon be responding more quickly to shootings thanks to ShotSpotter, a sophisticated gunshot detection system being deployed amid rising concerns about shootings on the barrier island.
Nassau County Legis. Denise Ford (R-Long Beach) secured $500,000 to fund the technology, which uses acoustic sensors and software to pinpoint the location of gunfire within milliseconds of the shot going off. Within 30-60 seconds of shootings, police officers are directly notified of gunshots—bypassing 911 and dispatchers—enabling them to dramatically decrease response times to these incidents.
“This technology will enable [police officers] to capture the gunmen more quickly, and even more importantly, the victim will receive medical attention and care much, much sooner,” Ford said during a news conference Tuesday at the Evangel Revival Community Church. “For too long, the good residents of these neighborhoods have lived in fear, and it is time that we take action to restore a sense of security.”
Nassau County police have credited Shotspotter with reducing gunfire by 80 percent in Roosevelt and Uniondale, where the system debuted in 2010. Suffolk County deployed Shotspotter in Huntington Station, Brentwood, North Amityville, Wyandanch and North the following year. And Hempstead village police began using it after that. ShotSpotter is similarly used by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, who have used it to track snipers.
“This is a vital tool to really help us eliminate this issue from our neighborhood to make it safe,” Acting Nassau County Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter said.
Recent shootings in Long Beach include a 4-year-old boy being grazed by a bullet last month, a man hit by gunfire in April and a 28-year-old man who was killed last fall. Arrests were made in all three cases.
The Shotspotter funding came from the county legislature’s discretionary Community Revitalization Projects program. The half-million dollar budget is enough to fund the Shotspotter program for five years.
Aside from helping catch shooters and save victims, ShotSpotter also aids citizens in communities where there is a fear of retaliation for calling 911. The technology provides all of the data necessary about the gunshots in order to prosecute suspects without eyewitness testimony, although officials continue to urge the public to still call 911.
In response to privacy concerns, ShotSpotter officials noted that the sensors’ microphones are not constantly recording or listening, except for the milliseconds before and after gunshots are fired. The devices do not record video and are placed high on top of buildings in order to cover more area, typically 50-100 feet above street level.
Officials said they hope that the mere presence of ShotSpotter will help deter shootings in the community.
“We’re not gonna take it anymore,” said New York State Assemb. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach). “We have the city, we have the county, we have the state, we have different parts of the community—and we’re all standing here saying that whatever resources are necessary, whatever investigations are necessary…to protect our communities, we are going to take those necessary steps.”
Long Beach city police officials, who did not attend the press conference, did not return a call for comment.
“The number of shootings have been steady in Long Beach while they have been increasing all around us,” Long Beach Police Commissioner Michael Tangney told the Long Beach Herald earlier this month, although no shooting statistics for the city were provided in that story.