BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — It's a partnership between the Bakersfield Police Department and ‘Shot Spotter’ that has helped address gun violence in the community, with sensors aimed at detecting the sound of gunfire and then alerting law enforcement to respond.
BPD said it's been critical in helping them make arrests and seize weapons after experiencing a record year of violence in 2021.
Bakersfield Police Department said Shot Spotter activations have led BPD to make more than 100 arrests.
These devices are placed on structures in areas like central, north, and east Bakersfield that experience more gun violence and say it’s made a significant impact in helping officers solve crimes.
“What this allows us to know is where these acts of violence are occurring, where a potential victim could be to get to them and render aid as well.” Said Sergeant Robert Pair, Police Officer Bakersfield Police Department.
If a gunshot is fired Shot Spotter’s gunshot detection system pinpoints its exact location and alerts officers within 60 seconds. These devices cover a wide area of Bakersfield.
“Basically, the area of terrace way, moving north, to the area of 40th Street north Bakersfield and then there are coverage areas east of Union Avenue.”
Sergeant Robert Pair said the average number Shot Spotter activation alerts has risen since 2020. Last year, the city had an average of 94 activations a month.
Pair said aside from that increase because of Shot Spotter activations, BPD has been able to seize weapons and make more arrests.
“Over that three-year period, we’ve recovered over 60 firearms.”
Aside from firearms, in 2020 BPD made 45 arrests, 53 arrests in 2021, and so far, this year 10 arrests associated with alerts made by Shot Spotter.
“These individuals are involved in firing a firearm at another person, killing another person, or recklessly discharging a firearm in residential neighborhoods.”
Shot Spotter’s Director of Community Impact and Engagement, Gerard Tate, said the technology helps officers respond to events that citizens may not report.
“Studies consistently show that upwards of 80% of urban gunfire goes without a corresponding 911 call,” said Tate.
Pair said the department hopes to continue using the technology to solve gunfire cases.
“Anytime you can hold someone accountable for committing an act of violence you are decreasing the chance of that person going on to commit additional acts of violence.”
The Bakersfield Police Department said the devices are very accurate and are able to determine the difference between fireworks, gunshots, and the backfiring of cars. It only sends officers an alert when a gunshot is involved.
However, despite all that the Shot Spotter technology has done to help local police there are still some critics.
We recently took a deeper look at a report from the "American Civil Liberties Union" last year, questioning the tech and how it works.
The ACLU cited a report on Shot Spotter by the City of Chicago’s Inspector General, saying they have worries about privacy with the company placing live microphones in public places.
Another issue the ACLU has is the appropriateness of Shot Spotter evidence for use in court, because of the company’s close relationship with law enforcement.
They also questioned the tech's effectiveness, saying a "Macarthur Justice Center’s Report" found that in Chicago, initial police responses to 88.7% of Shot Spotter alerts found no incidents involving a gun.
However, Shot Spotter CEO Ralph Clarke recently pushed back on the company’s critics, saying that the company provides two kinds of data about gunshots: an initial real-time alert sent to police shortly after a gunshot is detected.
Plus, it sends a much more thorough “detailed forensic report” for court cases.