Local News

Rocky Mount using sensors to trace gunshots

Posted September 22, 2011

— It seems like futuristic technology – someone fires a gun, and police know almost immediately where.

But it's a reality for Rocky Mount, the first North Carolina city taking advantage of a relatively new technology called "Shot Spotter," which uses sensors installed throughout the city to pinpoint gunshots when they go off.

Rocky Mount Police Sgt. Kevin Bern says Shot Spotter, which is being used in other U.S. cities like Oakland, Calif., and New York City, can also distinguish between gunfire and other noises, such as firecrackers or vehicles that backfire.

Once a gunshot is detected, police are automatically dispatched to the location – no 911 call needed.

"We're pretty excited," Bern said. "It seems kind of outlandish, kind of high-tech, but when we got the demonstration and saw how well it worked, we were highly impressed."

Right now, Shot Spotter covers 3 square miles of the city, thanks in part to a $350,000 federal grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, and a $12,000 investment by the city.

Since July, when the equipment was installed, Bern said, it has led to several arrests and stolen gun confiscations, although he won't say how many. He also won't say where the sensors are installed to keep from jeopardizing current or future cases.

Keisha Williams says she often hears gunshots in her neighborhood.

Although she doesn't think the technology will stop people from firing guns, she believes it will help police respond quicker.

"I'd rather for them to know, first," she said.

And to the police, knowing first makes a world of difference.

"We certainly hope that this is going to, if not reduce by a great amount, eliminate some of the problems we've had," Bern said.


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  • Vietnam Vet Sep 23, 2011

    Never heard of such a thing. I think they should have kept this system a secret however.

  • michaelclay Sep 23, 2011

    I live in the Washington, DC area and they work well here.