Discussions are underway to test ShotSpotter’s gunshot detection technology in the Masten district

ShotSpotter was unable to comment on details of his potential pilot with the city of Buffalo. The police believe that the technology will improve response times.

BUFFALO, NY — The Masten district may soon be a testing ground for ShotSpotter, as Common Council member Ulysees O. Wingo Sr. and high-ranking members of the Buffalo Police Department renew their push to bring it to Queen City.

ShotSpotter is an acoustic detection system that the company says can identify and triangulate where gunshots are taking place. According to Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia, these types of incidents often go unreported because they rely on people calling 911.

“We don’t know how many calls haven’t been made about shootings,” said Ulysees Wingo, a Masten district council member.

Earlier this year, $250,000 for a full ShotSpotter system was cut from the city’s budget, after activists objected and concerns were raised about its effectiveness. Our partners at Investigate Post have reported on several studies that found the service to be ineffective.

While ShotSpotter won’t be rolling out citywide, Wingo told 2 On Your Side on Wednesday that talks are underway to host a three- to six-month pilot program in his district. This story was first reported by The Buffalo News.

Where the “acoustic detectors” would be located has yet to be determined, but it will be based on existing weapons data from the Buffalo Police.

“This will give us a more accurate assessment of how many shots are actually being fired, or what sounds could be interpreted as a gunshot,” Wingo said.

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Since the budget fallout, Wingo said he has continued to field requests from residents who call his office and speak at block club meetings. He feels that the decision to remove ShotSpotter from the city budget was unfair to the people actually affected.

“How can you live in an area where there is virtually no violent crime, where no shooting calls are made, and then dictate to the city of Buffalo,” he said.

The pilot would come at no cost to the city, according to Wingo, who shied away from setting a timetable for when it would roll out. Approval would likely require a Common Council vote.

Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia has been a vocal advocate for the technology, telling 2 On Your Side on Wednesday that any opportunity to improve police response times could mean life or death for many victims. of shots.

ShotSpotter was unable to comment on details of its potential pilot with the city of Buffalo, but in a statement it touted that its technology is used in more than 125 cities. That statement read in part:

“With a growing list of more than 125 cities using ShotSpotter and a 98% renewal rate, we are confident that our technology will help make communities safer by enabling faster and more accurate police response to shooting incidents. 911 to help save victims’ lives and find critical evidence.”

One of those cities that already uses this acoustic detection system is Syracuse.

“So we’ve had the technology for several years,” said Syracuse Police Lt. Matthew Malinowski.

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Malinowski told 2 On Your Side that ShotSpotter helped his department identify 379 shooting incidents between January and August 2021. This year, following an expansion of the system to a new part of Syracuse, he said that during the same period that number increased to 511.

“There were a lot of shots that we didn’t even know were happening and you wouldn’t know the location until you found shell casings. This really brings officers down to street level,” Malinowski said.

Back in Buffalo, Antonio Robinson, who lives on Main Street in the Masten district, told 2 On Your Side that while he thinks the technology is a good idea, if the program goes beyond a pilot program, he won’t. you want neighborhoods to stand out.

“Crime happens everywhere,” Robinson said. “It’s a good idea to try it. Let’s see what happens, but I hope this is not the only area.”

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