Mass. Police Dump ShotSpotter in Favor of Video Surveillance

The Fall River Police Department has decided to shift its focus to video surveillance due to its high false alarm rate with ShotSpotter.

FALL RIVER, Mass. — The Fall River Police Department has decided to stop using the ShotSpotter gunshot detection system.

Local officials say there has been several incidents where police officers missed actual shots-fired because they were instead responding to false reports of gunfire, according to The Herald News.

With an annual cost around $90,000, Fall River Deputy Police Chief Al Dupere says he, along with other local officials, decided the money would be better spent on expanding the police department’s video surveillance system in the city.

“Video is something that we use all the time in court. It’s been very helpful to us,” says Dupere.

He also mentions that a ShotSpotter activation in Fall River has never been used as evidence in court since the city began using the system in January 2013.

Dupere says the one case in which he recalls the system playing an important role was an investigation where the sensors detected that two different guns were used in the same shots-fired call.

“It was somewhat helpful that we knew we were looking for two guns,” Dupere explains. “But it has never led us to a suspect.”

Officials say the ShotSpotter system never operated smoothly due in part to the city’s hills, which make it difficult for the system’s acoustic sensors to accurately triangulate the sound waves.

Dupere says ShotSpotter told the police they would need more sensors in certain locations. “We’ve been working through this for several years now, and trying to straighten things out,” he explains.

Out of Fall River’s 51 ShotSpotter activations in 2017, 21 have been false alarms, a 41% error rate.

Dupere says ShotSpotter has offered to work out the system’s kinks since notifying the company that the police department would not be renewing its contract.

As of now, Dupere says the police department is moving forward with plans to expand its video surveillance system, and has put out a request for proposals.

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