ST. LOUIS - The St. Louis County Police Department announced Thursday (June 14) it will pay to continue gunshot detection technology in an area of North County. Sergeant Shawn McGuire said over the past year the department saw a ten percent decrease in violent crime, made 23 arrests and seized 16 guns with the help of ShotSpotter.
In June 2017, the department activated ShotSpotter in a four square-mile area of the Caste Point neighborhood in North County. ShotSpotter technology uses sensors to pinpoint where shots are fired, then sends the information to officers in real time so they can respond to the scene within minutes.
McGuire said ShotSpotter helps officers track where and when extra police presence is needed in some areas.
"We've seen the importance of this tool," he said adding ShotSpotter helped investigators most recently during the murder investigation of Porsha Owens, who was shot and killed in front of her three children. Mark Haywood, 18, has been arrested and charged in that case. (https://fox2now.com/2018/06/13/person-of-interest-in-custody-as-police-investigate-murder-of-st-louis-county-mother-of-3/)
In the area where ShotSpotter is established, statistics show there has been a significant decrease in reports of violent crime. In 2016, there were 330 reports of violent crime. ShotSpotter was activated in June 2017, and the year ended with 236 reports of violent crime. Through May 2018, there have been 122 reports of violent crime in the ShotSpotter area.
Between June 26, 2017 when the system was activated and June 9, 2018, there were 2,408 ShotSpotter events. These events are incidents where it is deemed likely to be gunshots and excludes false alerts like fireworks and car backfires.
During the first year, the highest instances of shots detected occurred in December 2017 and January 2018 with 280 and 276, respectively. "A large portion" of the shots fired in January happened on New Years Day.
For 1,450 of the ShotSpotter events, it was determined there was "no report needed," and 400 of the events were "unfounded." McGuire said in many of these cases it is likely officers responded to the ShotSpotter activation but were not able to find a victim, suspect, witness or shell casings in the area where the shots were detected, so there was nothing for the officer to report.
ShotSpotter alerts led to 147 reports being taken by officers. In these reports, it was determined there were 68 incidents of weapon law violation, 28 incidents of aggravated assault and 25 incidents of destruction of property.
McGuire said these reports are important because officers were able to collect evidence like shell casings or fingerprints which may tie to past or future cases. Without ShotSpotter, officers may not have had the opportunity to gather this evidence.
"That may seem like a small number to the public, but without ShotSpotter we may not have those 23 arrests and 16 guns seized," said McGuire. "I think if the numbers show that it led to one extra arrest and one extra gun seized, I think it's worth it."
Of the 2,408 ShotSpotter events this past year, only 297 also received at least one call for service from someone in the community. McGuire called this figure "shocking."
"That leaves a lot of room for us to find out there's gunshots happening when the community is not calling in," he said explaining often times residents are not calling in because they are afraid of retaliation, or they may not be phased by the sound of gunfire.
"Quality of life is really important in St. Louis County. They shouldn't be living in neighborhoods that gunfire is going off, and they don't even feel like calling 9-1-1 anymore. We're focused on fixing that."