New Bern police chief asks for gunshot detection system at city meeting
New Bern's police chief Patrick Gallagher is looking to purchase the gunshot detection system ShotSpotter. The system deploys auditory sensors around the city to pick up gunfire and notify police where the shot occurred.
Gallagher is looking to purchase one unit from ShotSpotter that would cover one square mile over the Greater Duffyfield area and Craven Terrace.
"The data suggests that has the most incidences of gunfire,” Gallagher said. “The fact that it's highly populated only adds to the need for a product like this."
In his presentation to the New Bern Board of Aldermen last night, Gallagher said his police department has recovered 21 firearms used in criminal activity from the proposed area since the start of 2022.
“In response to gun violence, we have to leverage every available opportunity to protect those in our community,” he said to the Board.
The police chief has asked the Board to purchase the ShotSpotter system for two years now. It was left out of this year's budget, but Gallagher is looking to get the system as soon as possible. He said he's looking to attract sponsors to fund the $50,000 annual system.
The system has been deployed in more than 100 cities around the U.S., including Greenville, Fayetteville, Charlotte and Durham.
In some cities, residents have raised concerns about the system, claiming it's inaccurate and infringes on privacy. Police Chief Patrick Gallagher said the system does not “listen in” on conversations but that it will allow the department to respond to incidents, even those without a 911 call.
"I would hope that citizens would want their police chief to leverage every reasonable means of addressing their safety within the context of the constitution," Gallagher told PRE.
The system works by installing several microphones – or audio sensors – within an area. Those microphones pick up loud bangs or booms and send that audio to a computer, which then filters out audio that is not likely gunfire, according to ShotSpotter’s website. If it is likely gunfire, it is then sent to a person who listens to the audio and looks at the waveform. That person confirms it is gunfire and alerts the police department. The average length of the process is less than one minute.
Each of the aldermen present said they were open to using the system in New Bern.
Aldermen Hazel Royal and Barbara Best said the communities covered by the system should first approve of the technology's deployment. Police Chief Gallagher said he's optimistic he'll get the buy-in.
During questions the Board, Alderman Johnnie Ray Kinsey asked about the police chief’s visit to Greenville, where the system covers a 1.5-mile area. Gallagher said Greenville was able to respond to more incidents of gunfire than are reported to 911 after the system is deployed.
Alderman Rick Prill asked if the system could pick up gunfire within a home. Gallagher said ShotSpotter is not likely to pick up gunfire within a home but may do so if that home is near a sensor.
Alderman Bobby Aster is a strong supporter of the system and requested the presentation before the board. He asked how close ShotSpotter is able to locate gunfire, to which Gallagher responded within 20 feet.
The Board decided to reconsider the proposal in December, giving the chief a little more than a month to secure sponsors.