Earlier this month, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, in conjunction with the Clark County Commissioners, announced that ShotSpotter gunfire detection technology would be expanded into more neighborhoods in the Las Vegas Valley. The announcement was made after officials concluded that the existing pilot programs for ShotSpotter technology had shown significant success. Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys, prosecutors, and law enforcement believe this technology will make a difference.
As researched via the Urban Institute in 2016, nearly 80% of gunshot incidents are never reported to 911. This results in victim deaths, un-collected evidence, and a variety of negative social and economic repercussions. ShotSpotter can help by detecting gunfire incidents within a precise location, and in less than one minute, sending the data directly to the local police department so police can respond immediately. As well, the ShotSpotter technology protects officers by increasing tactical awareness, such as the number of rounds fired and the number of shooters.
What Is Shotspotter Technology?
According to the ShotSpotter website, acoustic sensors are strategically placed in any given coverage area; then, after a gun is fired, the sensors detect the gunshot with over 90% accuracy. Audio triangulation pinpoints the precise gunfire location, and an algorithm analyzes the sound. At that point, the information is sent to the Incident Review Center, where experts analyze the situation in seconds and add relevant tactical intelligence, such as how many shooters are involved or if automatic weapons are being used. The additional information is greatly helpful to police because they can determine how to best approach the scene of the crime, how many officers to send, what the risk are, etc.
Then, within a mere 60 seconds of the initial shooting, police are notified with all the data and can respond to the scene of the crime – without ever having been called by 911. Alerts from the ShotSpotter technology also integrate with other systems, such as street cameras, which can be programmed to zoom-in directly in the direction of the gunshot incident.
Las Vegas Officials Cite a Successful Pilot Program
Las Vegas Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick stated that “Clark County is proud to announce the expansion of the ShotSpotter program across the Las Vegas Valley to help reduce crime and make our neighborhoods safer…We are grateful to the police for their partnership in putting this technology to good use in fighting crime and improving the quality of life throughout our community.”
During the initial nine-months of the pilot program in Las Vegas, ShotSpotter successfully identified nearly 500 potential gunshot incidents, with 65% of them going unreported to police. Of those that were reported to the Las Vegas Police Department, ShotSpotter reported the incidents faster than 911 dispatch 86% of the time – and with more accurate location information.
How Are Shotspotter Locations Chosen?
The coverage areas were decided based on an analysis of “hot spots” for crimes in Las Vegas, illegal shootings, and ongoing police enforcement efforts. Commissioner Lawrence Weekly stated, “Data shows that our highest crime areas tend to be poorer neighborhoods where the sound of gunshots happens so frequently that many people don’t bother to call 911.”
Captain James LaRochelle also stated that “Residents living in these areas were simply afraid or did not call the police, and this is an obstacle for police responding to the area.” And Lt. Dori Koren added that the ShotSpotter technology would help because, “Maybe in some cases [the residents in affected areas] feel like it’s been ignored, and we want to make sure that is not the belief and that even if it is the belief we are going to try and change that by showing we do care about those neighborhoods and we want to prevent violent crime is occurring in your neighborhood.”
ShotSpotter Technology Helps in a Recent Shooting
One recent example of how ShotSpotter technology helped to bring justice to a crime is the shooting that occurred on Wengert Avenue near Charleston and Maryland Parkway last Wednesday. Las Vegas Police say the ShotSpotter sensor picked up on the shooting and triangulated the area where patrol officers needed to be sent.
At first, police could not find a victim, but they followed a trail of vehicle fluid and were led to a crashed vehicle. Inside, an adult man, Terry Louie, aged 61, was found dead on the scene from a gunshot wound. Eventually, police investigators found the suspect: Alexis Nava, aged 21.
This is one example where no one called 911 to report the crime, and without the use of the ShotSpotter technology, the suspect may have gotten away with murder.