The South Bend Police Department has a ‘sound’ plan to better address gun violence.
Several sound sensors have been mounted in strategic outdoor locations to alert officers when shots are fired.
The department flipped the switch on its new gunfire detection system on January 25th. The audio sensors detect exactly when shots are fired, and GPS technology pinpoints exactly where those shots are fired.
“Last night we had a ShotSpotter alert,” said SBPD Capt. Phil Trent, “It gave us a specific address. We got to that specific address, located nine expended casings. It was dead on accurate.”
“Unfortunately, even when people do call us, they only give us a vague description. They give us their address and how far they think it is, but they can’t always locate it,” said Chief Ron Teachman of the SBPD. “We end up in the neighborhood kind of circling around not knowing exactly where the gunfire occurred.”
The system also addresses the fact that many residents are gun shy about reporting gun shots.
It is estimated that nationwide, police are only alerted to about 20 percent of all the gunfire incidents that take place.
“We have people who are either assuming somebody else is calling, don’t care anymore, or just think that somehow we know when, just magically that shots are being fired,” said Capt. Trent.
“The national average is around 20 percent, we’re finding in our coverage area closer to 10 percent or less,” said Chief Teachman. “We haven’t been hearing from that community, now we’re letting them know that we’re hearing those shots that they’re hearing through technology. We’re responding rapidly and we’re making them understand that we care about them, want to work with them to reduce gun violence.”
The gunfire detection system currently in place only covers a three square mile area in a city that has 42 square miles.
Chief Teachman would love to expand the coverage area with private donations, but adds that the turf now targeted is responsible for 40 percent of all gun crimes and more than 50 percent of the city’s murders.
Police will not reveal the exact location of the coverage area for strategic purposes. The department says by no means should the new gunfire detection system discourage residents from calling in to report gunfire in their neighborhoods.