Houston police begin using ShotSpotter to help combat gun crimes

On Tuesday, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo and Mayor Sylvester Turner announced a major and costly undertaking to stop violent crime in the city.

They developed an $8.5 million proposal for enhanced technology to help solve crimes. The proposal includes cameras around the city, assistance with analytics, and using a program called ShotSpotter.

It’s used in more than 100 local police departments across the country. It uses sensors to detect and locate gunfire.

Glendale Arizona’s police department has been using the program for several years. It credits ShotSpotter with the arrest of a serial shooter last year and helping combat celebratory gunfire on holidays.

"Technology nowadays is pretty specific. We can pinpoint an exact location. Let's say at a residence. We can say at what part of the residence inside or front yard or backyard, side. How many shots were fired,” explained Lt. Jay O’Neill with the Glendale Police Department.    

"ShotSpotter listens to every activation and determines whether or not it's a gunshot or a firework potentially,” he added.

In Houston, ShotSpotter's use is underway.

“ShotSpotter has agreed to give us a one-year pilot that will cover five square mile area that we will be deploying on the south part of the city,” Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said in a press conference alongside Mayor Sylvester Turner.

“Houston is experiencing moderate fluctuations in violent crime. The uptick in crime is a concern to everyone,” Turner stated.

Turner is on the private sector to help with funding. The most commonly noted downside of ShotSpotter is the cost. It’s estimated to cost between $65,000 to $90,000 per square mile per year.

In Cincinnati, Ohio, the police department has used the program for about three years and is expanding it. Lieutenant Steve Sanders says before they used it, only 15 percent of gunfire was reported.

As part of the effort against crime, Turner also announced he’s approved $1.5 million in overtime for officers over the next 6 months and it’s effective immediately.

Turner also declared March as “March on Crime” month – an initiative that began in 1984. As part of the campaign, there will be town hall events across the city.

The first is scheduled for March 7th.