The future of ShotSpotter amid COVID-19 budget cuts

Local News

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — The coronavirus pandemic has led Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh to cut $18.1 million from the budget, after continuously asking for federal aid. The cuts impact nearly every department in the city.

Among the things on the chopping block is an important police program called ShotSpotter. While you’re walking through the city, high above you, indiscretion, the small devices work to make a big impact on city crime.

“Microphones detect sound and it will go off the science of triangulation. So it hits at least three of the microphones and then pin-points kind of one city street distance,” said Sgt. Matthew Malinowski, public information officer for the Syracuse Police Department.

The ShotSpotter technology detects the sound of gunfire and oftentimes, alerts police before 911 is called, helping officers get to the scene faster.

“Around 65 percent of crime, gun crime that occurs in the city, so shots fired, shooting with injuries, or homicide involving a gun was involving in some way, ShotSpotter notifications,” said Malinowski.

It’s tactical intelligence that alerts police within seconds. Arguably, a life-saving device. However, if they can’t find the funding, they’ll lose their extra set of ears and will have to rely solely on people calling 911 and giving them an accurate description and location of any gunfire they hear.

“We’re working with the company. There are several options we’re exploring, you know whether we can find ways to keep it in place, and then there are different payment options that ShotSpotter is working with us as well,” said Malinowski.

They’re hoping they’ll find a way not to lose the investigative tool that improves their ability to find evidence and solve long-term investigations, including gang-related investigations. If ShotSpotter is canceled, officers will be counting on neighbors within the city to step up.

When it comes to trying to prevent crime in the first place and solving crime, we’re gonna do what we’ve always done. So it’s relying on our citizens to call 911, giving us accurate descriptions of what they see, pointing our officers in the exact location of the shots fired, but now more than ever if we do lose this technology it’s gonna be working with our partners in the community. There’s more eyes out in the community and we’re really gonna need people to go ahead and make those 911 calls and get officers to the area. Even if you think somebody else has called you should still call 911 and say where it’s at.

Sergeant Matthew Malinowski

Walsh announced the budget cuts on Aug. 21, citing a lack of federal help.

A recent New York Times article predicts Syracuse will be among the top three hardest-hit cities in the nation.

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