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Canton, Ohio, to Part Ways with ShotSpotter, Expand System

The city has used ShotSpotter to detect gunfire since June 2013, but officials are now heading in a different direction, opting for a less expensive solution that can be more widely deployed throughout the city.

(TNS) — The city will soon have a new gunshot detection system that covers more of Canton for less than the cost of ShotSpotter.

Canton Police Department and Wi-Fiber officials on Monday presented the new system to Canton City Council, which authorized the mayor or safety director to enter contracts and implement the system. The technology operates on its own wireless network and involves units with audio and video technology. Some also will have license plate readers.

"We feel that this will allow us to expand our shot detection and also add in other type of sound detection," Police Chief Jack Angelo said.

Since June 2013, the city has used ShotSpotter to detect gunfire. The audio sensors are provided and monitored by a California-based company, which alerts police to gunfire.

The sensors only cover about three square miles in central Canton, however, and Canton is roughly 25 square miles. Angelo said one of the difficulties of ShotSpotter is the inability to easily move sensors, which would cost about $465,000.

Unlike ShotSpotter, the city will own the Wi-Fiber devices and could more easily move them. Angelo said the largest unit is a technology-outfitted street lamp but other audio and video devices would be smaller and less noticeable.

City officials asked that locations for the devices not be shared.

Capt. John Gabbard said the area covered by the new system will be nearly double that covered by ShotSpotter. Because the city already has some of the equipment, used to test Wi-Fiber, the implementation could begin "nearly immediately."

While ShotSpotter has provided reliable information to help police analyze data and improve community relations, the shell casings located after an alert have not proved as effective as expected. Gabbard and Angelo said video and license plate readers would better identify the perpetrators of gun crimes.

"We've never really had a lot of arrests right after the ShotSpotter came in," Angelo said.

Gabbard said the technology would be used by the department's real-time crime center, which is not yet staffed 24/7, as is the goal. The department's crime analyst and investigators would be trained on the system, which could be connected to the department's existing cameras.

"It'll be a tool for everybody," Gabbard said.

The startup cost for Wi-Fiber could be up to $179,600 with an estimated reoccurring cost of $60,000.

The city's discounted contract with ShotSpotter for 2019 was $148,838. The company is raising the cost of service by 5% in 2020, which would cost the city at least $156,280.

It's estimated the city would save $158,181 in a three-year period by switching to Wi-Fiber. Gabbard said future costs could increase, however, if the city adds more devices.

"I anticipate we're going to keep expanding," he said.

Wi-Fiber was established about four years ago and is based in Maryland. CEO Adair Grover said plans to install the system in the city of Akron have been placed on hold, so Canton will be the first city in Ohio to use the technology.

The company has contracted with about 20 other municipalities throughout the country.

"We've kind of been all over at this point," Grover said.

He said units are "ready to go" and could be installed within 150 days. Typically, that's followed by a 30 to 60 day period for "tuning" before the system goes live.

©2019 The Repository, Canton, Ohio. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.