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Las Vegas police to continue gunshot detection program in 2019

Technology used in a pilot program targeting gun violence in the Las Vegas Valley cut police response times, helped with evidence collection and alerted police to more shootings, officials said Wednesday.

Last fall, Las Vegas police deployed gunshot detection sensors in three undisclosed valley neighborhoods. Officials called the pilot program a success, crediting a drop in crime in those neighborhoods in part to the acoustic sensors, one of several avenues they’re using to reduce violent crime.

“Before you pull the trigger next time, you better think twice because you’re mostly likely gonna get caught because of the different technologies and strategies we have in place right now,” Metropolitan Police Department Lt. Dori Koren said during a press conference Wednesday.

The sensors listen for loud sounds that resemble gunshots, and if enough sensors are activated, a notification is sent to an acoustic expert at the ShotSpotter company headquarters in Newark, California. The expert determines whether the gunshot detection is legitimate, and if it is, alerts Metro with the time, number and location of the shots.

The neighborhoods involved in the program are within Metro’s Southeast, South Central and Northeast area commands, said Koren, who is with Metro’s technical operations division.

The program will continue for another year and will be re-evaluated at the end of 2019, he said. It could be expanded to other areas depending on the available funding.

“We’re very confident with the success thus far, but another year will either give us more confidence or less in how to continue this or not to continue,” Koren said.

The extension will be funded through Metro’s budget and the Friends of LVMPD Foundation, Koren said. Clark County Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick, a driving force behind the program’s implementation, said the county has applied for an $11.5 million grant to expand the technology within the county.

“Overall success”

The areas with sensors were determined to be “hotspots” for gun violence, which are often places where residents may be reticent to call 911 if they think they hear gunshots, Koren said.

Residents may hesitate to call for a number of reasons, including a sense of skepticism about the police response to a call, he said. But the program was an overall success, he said, in part because it helped police respond to shootings where they never received a 911 call.

“For us in law enforcement, we can start addressing more criminals and more crimes that are occurring that we would not have known about without the technology,” Koren said.

During the pilot phase, Metro found the technology heard 1,497 gunshots from 487 possible shootings, Koren said. About 65 percent of those shootings were not reported to the police, he said. Police also determined that 86 percent of the shootings were reported quicker by ShotSpotter than by a 911 caller.

Responding to unreported shootings demonstrates Metro is working to stop violent crime regardless of whether they get a 911 call, police said.

“We were able to restore some of that faith, build more trust with some of those community members to show them that we are gonna be addressing the gun crimes,” Koren said.

Police played audio of two shootings where ShotSpotter helped police to identify crimes that otherwise would’ve gone unreported. The sensors picked up gunshots from a shooting where a man was left to die on a sidewalk and police were never called.

Another gunshot detection led police to a man and a woman who had been robbed, beaten and sexually assaulted, Koren said.

Continue to call 911

The project was part of Kirkpatrick’s “Pathway from Poverty” initiative, which seeks to provide economic, educational and social support to impoverished areas of the northeast valley.

Children have been more willing to play in their neighborhoods and residents have become more engaged with one another since the initiative began, and the ShotSpotter implementation was an important first step, Kirkpatrick said. She urged people to continue calling 911 and to be Metro’s “eyes and ears.”

“I am quite pleased, myself, with the results,” she said. “There’s been a lot of boots on the ground.”

Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, who represents one of the involved neighborhoods, said the technology improves police safety by giving them more accurate details of the call to which they’re responding.

One such neighborhood, Giunchigliani said, has a high population of undocumented people, and the acoustic technology ensures police will respond and address violent crime targeting their community.

“We wanted the families to feel comfortable with reporting,” she said.

Contact Mike Shoro at mshoro@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290. Follow @mike_shoro on Twitter.

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