At Thursday’s Savannah City Council meeting, aldermen approved investing another $255,000 in Shotspotter technology to help address gun violence throughout the city.
The additional investment, according to Savannah Police Major Robert Gavin, will allow Shotspotter to cover 9.5 square miles of the city’s 113.5 total square miles, of which nearly 6 square miles is water. The current Shotspotter system covers about 6 square miles, primarily in downtown, the east and northwest sides of the city.
Police Chief Roy Minter said that the additional $255,000 will expand the coverage area toward the south and southeast parts of the city.
Sixth District Alderman Kurtis Purtee said during the city council meeting that he’s heard his constituents “screaming” for the city to install Shotspotter. He asked city staff to work with SPD to explore a public-private partnership to fund further expansion of the system.
A public-private partnership kicked off the city’s first foray into Shotspotter.
In 2014, Savannah Police, then part of the combined Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Department, first purchased the detection system, which is mounted on rooftops and utility poles and conveys the location of gunfire using radius sensors, for $205,000. That initiative covered a three-quarter-mile area where about 25% of shootings in the city occurred, according to a Savannah Morning News report by Eric Curl.
The Savannah College of Art and Design partnered with law enforcement in 2015 to expand Shotspotter technology on the buildings throughout its decentralized downtown campus. The university had already installed more than 600 security cameras on its facilities, which provided extra coverage throughout the Landmark and Victorian historic districts — the heart of the city’s tourism economy.
Fourth District Alderman Nick Palumbo called on Chatham County to enter into a partnership with the city to help fund Shotspotter.
“Now’s the time to step up to the plate,” Palumbo said, “We’ll do a group purchasing program.”
Alderwoman-at-large Keisha Gibson-Carter wondered if the money would be better spent elsewhere, such as on security cameras.
Gavin explained that the department is part of a pilot program for the installation of Flock Safety devices on the city’s eastside. These surveillance devices use cameras to capture license plates and vehicle characteristics to help solve crime.
How Shotspotter Works
One Shotspotter device can cover a quarter mile, while others can cover up to one mile, said Gavin. It takes 20 sensors to do a “spring off” to triangulate the devices to determine the location of gunfire, Gavin added.
He said the police use the data to more efficiently target patrols and to help make geographic decisions where Shotspotter sensors will be implemented next.
Following the council meeting, Minter said that the technology provides important report information “so we know where we can focus and manufacturing our controls and our patrols to actually have a larger presence in those areas.”
Savannah Morning News has submitted a request to the department for data to assess how successful Shotspotter has been in identifying areas with a propensity for gun violence.
Drew Favakeh is the public safety and public health reporter for Savannah Morning News. You can reach him at [email protected].
This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: The City of Savannah is investing $255,000 in Shotspotter