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According to, Rocky Mount, North Carolina is safer than 10 percent of the cities in the United States. I think that’s a nice way of saying they have a crime problem. The city of 60k had 237 assaults and seven murders last year. Note: there’s no data on how many of those crimes involved firearms. Also worth noting: the birthplace of Thelonious Monk is a two-time winner of the All-America City Award. To help the city become less felonious, the town fathers installed a ShotSpotter gunfire locator. Before you read the press release celebrating the result, the voice of my late father calls out to me. “Bobby. How much is this boondoggle going to cost me?” For that answer, a lack of transparency forces us to turn to out of Plainfield, New Jersey . . .

A gunshot detection system previously offered as a $1 million deal is now available as a “subscription service” for $165,000 and could be paid for with a $250,000 technology grant, officials told the City Council Tuesday.

ShotSpotter Senior Vice President Gregg Rowland said the company no longer sells the equipment but has a new business model in which it will set up the system and “sell data” as a subscription service. The new approach eliminates the need for maintenance and has other advantages, as described in this article posted on the company’s web site.

Rowland got a mixed reaction, with Councilman William Reid arguing that the city has “50,000 shot spotters” who light up the police switchboard with phone calls telling where shots have been fired. Reid said the ShotSpotter service would cost $14,000 a month, so if one shot was fired, it would cost $14,000 for detection or $1,400 each for 10 shots.

So, now, how’s it going in Rocky Mount?

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., Oct 20, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) — The Rocky Mount Police Department is quickly realizing key benefits in incorporating the gunfire alert and analysis technology provided by SST, Inc., with its strategic and tactical operations to combat crime in the city. In July 2011, the Rocky Mount Police Department implemented the ShotSpotter Flex(TM) solution in support of its ongoing commitment to rid the city of gun crime and gun violence and improve the quality of life for its residents. ShotSpotter Flex is delivered to Rocky Mount in a hosted service model that provides the comprehensive gunfire data and intelligence of the world’s leading gunshot detection technology but now more affordable and easier for law enforcement agencies to deploy and operate.

Since deploying ShotSpotter Flex, Rocky Mount PD has been able to leverage the actionable intelligence and data provided by the service to support its strategic policing measures in the ShotSpotter coverage area:

— Improved Awareness and Analysis – Incident data provided by ShotSpotter Flex has been used by the Rocky Mount PD to identify “hotspots” and areas with high concentrations of illegal gunfire.

— Better Resource Management and Community Engagement – Rocky Mount is using the new data to mobilize specialized teams for proactive and strategic policing measures in high crime areas, and officers are also conducting self initiated patrols to maintain a stronger presence.

— Data-Driven Policing Operations and Safer Response – Officers who were initially skeptical of ShotSpotter have become highly confident in its accuracy and the actionable intelligence provided by the service. As a result, Rocky Mount officers and investigators are better prepared when responding to gunfire incidents and are using ShotSpotter data to build case files, crime analysis, and in support of evidence provided to prosecutors.

— Cost Savings for the City – Gunshot detection data provided by ShotSpotter Flex has enabled the Rocky Mount PD to refute false claims by gunshot victims, saving the agency lost investigative time and resources.

Rocky Mount PD has made 15 arrests related to illegal gun usage and crime since the implementation of ShotSpotter. 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.

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.

If ONE child is saved by ShotSpotter, I reckon it’s worth it. You?

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  1. Interesting… it’s not my tax dollars at work here, so I think it’s a pretty sound idea. No reason to be shooting in city limits, and citizens have been known to both a) be confused about what a gunshot actually sounds like, and b) give police the wrong direction for a “shots fired” complaint. The ShotSpotter has neither of those weaknesses, plus it is always on and pretty much instant.

  2. It’s a little “Big Brother” -ish, but not as creepy as say cameras everywhere.

    Although I have some question as to the legallity of using the sound of gunshots and shell casings as propable cause to search a residence.

    The thug in me sees this as an excellent way to get police to raid rival gang hideouts. Roll-up, pop some shots, make sure the casings land on their turf and get the heck outta dodge before 5-0 comes along (or the other gang pops you…)

  3. I wonder what the false positive rate is for this system? Especially if they are trying to use it as probable cause to search a home without a warrant.

  4. If the system works as claimed, seems to me it is up to the local communities to decide if it is worth the cost.In my neck of the woods, we often hear gun fire. The only benefit to me is just where is the game? 🙂

  5. I work with ShotSpotter on a daily basis and it can be very useful. Frequently in our worse neighborhoods, people don’t call the police after shots fired, whether b/c of confusion or apathy or hostility to police. So when you have a body in the street, being able to put a specific time to the crime is very helpful.

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