What was sold to residents as a potential solution to Hartford's gun violence has instead proved to be a major drain on police resources. The Shot Spotter Technology was sold to local residents at community meetings as an intelligent system that was smart enough to determine the difference between gunfire, fireworks and other ambient noise such as backfires and construction noises.
The system would then triangulate the noise and analyze it and provide police with information within seconds of the location of any gunfire in the covered areas of the city
It now appears that Hartford's system isn't as intelligent as we were told and most likely graduated in the bottom of its class. The system is apparently on a trial basis for Hartford and was supposed to be tested and evaluated through June 30th. During the month of May over 98% of the activations were false alarms according to police sources, the majority of which were fireworks, which shotspotter is not supposed to send an alarm on.
The system also showed an alarming increase in gunfire in the Barry Square area during May until it was realized that the activations were actually noise and jackhammers from construction projects in the area.
The system also has placed a huge drain on police resources as two officers and a supervisor are required to respond to every shotspotter activation. The first officer assigned then has to write a report regarding the alarm and the supervisor has to write an unusual incident report whether the activation is gunfire or fireworks.
The system was so unreliable that it has now been shut down to get past the July 4th fireworks and the trial has been extended. Shotspotter representatives attended police roll calls this week to address the patrol officers required to respond to their false alarm activations and sources tell me it appeared to be a move by Shotspotter to salvage their system in Hartford.
New Haven is also using the shotspotter technology and according to media reports, New Haven Chief Dean Esserman is considering removing the system altogether due to its inefficiency. On New Years Eve in New Haven the system was actually shut down when it was overloaded by false alarms from fireworks. Media accounts also claim that New Haven's first homicide of 2012 was never detected by shotspotter, although the shooting took place in an area coverd by the system and numerous shell casings were found on the ground.
Information on how many of Hartford's recent shootings actually triggered a shotspotter response are unavailable at this time, but it should be renamed "bottlerocket spotter"
To read more on shotspotter in New Haven, click here