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Proposed Lancaster system could help track gunfire in city


Pilot program for ‘ShotSpotter’ platform

The Lancaster City Council is taking under consideration a proposed $700,000 professional service agreement for real-time gunfire intelligence designed to identify, locate and track active gunfire within a specified coverage area in the city.

The proposed agreement with SoundThinking Inc. of Fremont, Calif., for the ShotSpotter platform includes a six-month pilot program evaluation period with all fees waived. The cost would then be $140,000 for the remaining six months of the standard 12-month period. Thereafter, the cost would be $280,000 each year for years two and three, should the city decide to continue after the six-month pilot program.

“This program will support our local sheriff’s department and the Lancaster Police Department’s efforts to more effectively respond to and investigate gunfire incidents,” a staff report by Rodrick Armalin, chief of police, said. “ShotSpotter solution is currently deployed across the country and serves agencies of all sizes that are committed to leveraging real-time gunfire intelligence to reduce gun violence and build community safety and trust.”

The technology is designed to detect and accurately locate to within 25 meters, or about 82 feet, of the actual gunshot location 90% of unsuppressed, outdoor gunshots fired inside the contracted coverage area using standard, commercially available rounds greater than .25-caliber, according to the proposed master services agreement. The company’s real-time Incident Review Center will review at least 90% of all gunfire incidents and publish within 60 seconds, also known as a “reviewed alert.”

The proposed coverage area is four square miles generally bounded by avenues H and I to the north, Avenue J-7 and Poston Street to the south, 15th Street West to the west and Seventh Street East to the east, based on historical crime data.

The coverage area had 538 total firearm related crimes between Jan. 1, 2021, and Sept. 12, 2023, including 21 homicides and 304 calls for unlawful shootings reported. The other incidents were 185 aggravated assaults and 28 shooting incidents. A smartphone application can deliver real-time gunfire data to smartphones and smart watches for law enforcement officials. The app displays the gunfire location as a dot on a map. The data also includes the number of rounds fired and access to the incident audio.

The platform’s Detailed Forensic Report, or DFR, supports detailed forensic analysis of gunfire incidents including the weapon type such as automatic vs. semi-automatic or the possibility of multiple shooters. The DFR is a court-admissible document prepared by the company’s forensic engineers. SoundThinking can also provide expert witness testimony.

“The DFR is intended to be used by attorneys as part of a court case for the exact, verified timing, sequence and location of each shot fired,” the proposed agreement said. “Secondarily, DFRs are available for use by law enforcement to obtain search warrants or to investigate Officer Involved Shootings. DFRs are available upon written request, and our goal is to deliver all DFRs within 10 business days of the request.”

A ShotCast provides a video summary report of shooting incidents detected by ShotSpotter that includes gunfire audio, the date, time and block address of the shooting that can be shared on the Internet, social media, broadcast news and other media outlets, according to the agreement.