Gunshot detection system activated in north St. Louis County

ST. LOUIS COUNTY - St. Louis County Police Department activated its new "ShotSpotter" system in North County Monday (June 26) to help reduce gun violence, and the department is already seeing results.

Chief Jon Belmar said since the gunshot detection system went live Monday, officers have already been alerted to 18 incidents of "shots fired" and have made one arrest.

The technology uses sensors to pinpoint where shots are fired, then sends the information in real time to officers on patrol and the county police communications center. Officers are then mandated to respond to the scene where the shots originate from.

"ShotSpotter" covers about four-square miles of the Castlepoint area of North County.

As we enter into the Fourth of July Weekend, Belmar said the "ShotSpotter" system is able to differentiate between fireworks and gunshots, and, in some cases, can even differentiate between different caliber rounds.

A $400,000 federal grant helped pay for the gunshot detection system and future conflict resolution intervention provided by Better Family Life. Belmar sees this as an opportunity for police and community stakeholders to collaborate in fighting crime the area.

According to James Clark with Better Family Life, when shots are detected, trained, uniformed outreach specialists will be sent to the address and the surrounding blocks to go door-to-door to figure out what resources people need to keep them from turning to a life of crime. Resources may include job training, education and drug treatment.

"We believe that the best way to stop a bullet is with a job," Clark said.

St. Louis City installed the "ShotSpotter" in 2008. The system has been adopted in more than 90 other metropolitan areas including Louisville and Denver.