Colorado Police Agency to Pilot Gunshot Detection System

The technology will being tested in an area of Colorado Springs with the highest reports of gunfire.

by Rachel Riley, The Gazette / September 28, 2018
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(TNS) — Colorado Springs police are working with federal agencies to see if a military-grade technology can help combat gun violence.

The FireFLY gunshot detection system, similar to a program used in other U.S. cities, is a network of acoustic sensors that detects when a shot is fired, pinpoints the location of the gunfire and immediately notifies police, said police spokesman Lt. Howard Black.

Alabama-based Invariant worked with several government defense research organizations to develop the technology to detect hostile fire during military operations, according to the Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center.

Now, Colorado Springs police are working with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. Department of Defense to adapt the system for civilian law enforcement.

As part of a pilot program, officials have installed the network of sensors near the Valley Hi neighborhood and East Fountain Boulevard and South Chelton Road — the intersection that has the highest reports of gunfire in the city, according to police.

The system, which officials tested using live fire on Tuesday, has been designed so that it can be moved to other areas of the city, Black said.

Police hope that, because dispatchers will be immediately notified of gunfire instead of relying on residents’ reports, police will be able to respond to more shootings, get to the scene faster and make more gun-related arrests, Black said.

“We’re also hopeful that ... people will really think twice before they make an inappropriate choice of pulling that trigger — that they might have a criminal consequence — because of that technology,” he said.

The system may also help authorities retrieve more ammo casings for a national network of ballistic evidence that’s used to solve crimes, said ATF spokeswoman Mary Markos.

The system is similar to another gunshot detection program called ShotSpotter that cities can pay to subscribe to; however, the FireFLY won’t cost the city, Black said.

ShotSpotter is in use in more than 90 cities across the country, including New York City, Chicago and Denver.

The California-based company’s website boasts of dramatic decreases in gunfire and increases in gun-related arrests in areas that use the system.

Denver Channel 7 reported in April that since Denver police began using ShotSpotter in early 2015 it has lead to 102 arrests and the recovery of more than 80 guns.

ShotSpotter’s two-year contract with the city is worth nearly $2 million, according to Channel 7.

But critics have questioned whether the ShotSpotter system can actually help police catch or deter more criminals.

Some communities have discontinued the program amid concerns related to its cost and effectiveness, according to multiple media reports.

A 2016 Forbes Magazine analysis of data from seven participating cities found that police were unable to find evidence of gunshots 30 to 70 percent of the time after ShotSpotter alerts.

©2018 The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.