|Updated: 1/05/2012 4:18 am
||Published: 1/04/2012 8:20 pm
PINE BLUFF, AR - Pine Bluff is looking for ways to combat crime and considering a high-tech tool called ShotSpotter. It helps police catch criminals seconds after a gun shot is fired. The City of Pine Bluff has been looking into implementing ShotSpotter for years, but the technology is expensive. Even though the benefits to the community would be less crime in the city, it's just not in the budget right now.
Phil Dailly is the ShotSpotter Regional Director and presented all the benefits of the crime fighting tool at the Pine Bluff Public Safety meeting Wednesday night. He says ShotSpotter shortens response time, curbs gun violence, and is more accurate at relaying scene information than a 911 caller. "Only about 20-25% of gun fire is actually reported through 911, so right off the bat you're going to be able to see 100% of the gun fire activity in the coverage area."
When a gun fires, ShotSpotter sensors detect it and send location directions to police within seconds. Currently more than 65 cities are using it. Another benefit of ShotSpotter, Dailly says, is it builds trust in the community. People know within a second of a gun shot police can be on the scene to respond. That intimidates criminals. The system can be tweaked to cover just one particular area in a neighborhood or expanded to the entire city.
John James is a volunteer with the community organization Taking Back Pine Bluff and says anything is worth pursuing if it helps stop the violence in the city. "I think it's a great technology if we can afford it. We have to hit crime and violence from every angle. If we can use technology, people on the ground, police force and the community working together we can hit crime at every angle."
Dailly says Pine Bluff could effectively be monitored with 3 to 5 square miles equipped with Shot Spotter. That would cost the city between $120,000 and $200,000 per year to utilize the technology.
Captain Gregory Shapiro with the Pine Bluff Police Department says it's just not in the budget. "Our budget for 2012 has already been established and it's not approved for 2012. It wasn't even on the agenda to be approved for 2012 in our police budget. We would have to try to get it for 2013, get a grant for it, or another option would be private contributors."
While the cost may sound prohibitive, Dailly wants to put it into perspective. Citing research done by the Rand Corporation, Dailly says a single homicide can cost a city like Pine Bluff more than a half million dollars.
The next step now is trying to figure out how to come up with the funding. Some possibilities to get this technology could come through Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, grants, and even the Housing Authority. However, Pine Bluff Police aren't hopeful unless a wealthy philanthropist steps forward. Until then police and the people of Pine Bluff will remain the only shot spotters.