Gunshot-identifying technology ignored by Memphis leaders - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Gunshot-identifying technology ignored by Memphis leaders

Shotspotter can identify instantaneously where a gunshot was fired (Source: WMC Action News 5) Shotspotter can identify instantaneously where a gunshot was fired (Source: WMC Action News 5)
Where ShotSpotter is being utilized in America. (Source: Where ShotSpotter is being utilized in America. (Source:
(Source: WMC Action News 5) (Source: WMC Action News 5)
Shotspotter microphone (Source: WMC Action News 5) Shotspotter microphone (Source: WMC Action News 5)

Memphians reported gunfire on average 30 times a day in 2015. That's more than 10,000 calls to 911 just to report gun shots.

Technology exists that could help officers track down where the shots are coming from and determine what kind of gun is being fired.

The technology is called ShotSpotter, and it is already deployed in 87 cities globally. However, Memphis leaders turned down a chance to implement the technology.

Ralph Clark the CEO of ShotSpotter, Inc. said his company goes city to city installing microphones, on everything from houses to telephone poles, in areas with the most crime. Every time a gun is fired, police have a record.

Clark estimates in a city with 10,000 calls to 911 to report shots fired the actual number of gunshots being fired is closer to 50,000. He said most people don't bother to call police every time they hear a bang.

"We are a very powerful tool to make police aware 100 percent of the time when and where guns are fired," Clark said.

With ShotSpotter technology, he said police dispatchers can pinpoint with precision not only when the gun was fired, but also from what location and what type of gun was used. That provides forensic evidence police and prosecutors can rely on to make arrests and secure convictions.

As Memphis’ homicide rate threatens to bolster the city onto the mantle of the most violent in the country, many neighbors are living in fear.

“[One} lady's house got riddled and we hear it from five blocks away. It sounds like Beirut,” Frayser resident Dwayne Mitchell said.

"They literally sleep on the floor; they are afraid. They wish something could be done," City Council member Berlin Boyd said. 

Memphis Police Department said it reviewed and looked into installing ShotSpotter.

Mayor Jim Strickland said he remembers the technology being addressed when he was a city council member. He promised WMC Action News 5 to look into what came of the discussions, but it's obvious city leaders decided not to install the technology.

It's unclear why city leaders decided to go another direction, but one possible explanation is that ShotSpotter costs money.

It's a fact Councilman Boyd does not deny. However, he said it's time to start thinking of solutions instead of bringing up more obstacles.

"You have to figure out the overall dollar amount of saving a life," Boyd said.

To cover just three to four square miles, it would cost $250,000 to deploy ShotSpotter in Memphis. That would pay for the equipment and training. What many cities do is put the technology in just the hardest hit areas.

Detroit was even able to deploy the system on a trial basis for free.

City Councilman Berlin Boyd said with the recent purchase of other crime fighting technology like Skycop cameras, he believes money can be found or raised to save lives.

"Having technology that can address the problem is definitely well worth it," Boyd said.

We're told part of the reason the City of Memphis passed on ShotSpotter technology is because it uses sensors--not cameras--and they are
not mobile like the Skycop cameras.

Copyright 2016 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.

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