Gunshot detection system once green-lighted for Richmond isn’t happening

Taking Action

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — It was supposed to alert Richmond Police and help officers pinpoint the exact location of gunfire from the second gunshots ring out and the calls to 911 come in.  

The gunshot detection system that was touted to assist officers in responding faster and more accurately to calls for gunfire is called Shotspotter.

It uses a system of microphones, sensors and sonar to pinpoint on a map the exact location.

Two years ago, former Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham told 8News, “within 45 seconds, the officers in their vehicles on their mobile terminals will be able to see the location, they can hear the number of gunshots, it will tell you the exact location within 25 meters.” Richmond City Council approved the $235,000 for the technology. So two years later, where is it?

8News has learned it’s not happening. 8News has confirmed the City couldn’t work out an acceptable contract with Shotspotter. We’ve also learned the police department is no longer in the market for a gunshot detection system.

It’s disappointing and concerning for residents who say the gunfire hasn’t stopped.

“Every other night, literally every other night,” says Kevin Slade who lives near Mosby Court. 

“I feel like it puts me in danger because I don’t know where it’s coming from and bullets have no names on them,” says Linda Braxton who owns a home in Fulton Hill.In 2016 when police began looking at Shotspotter there were 3,495 calls for service for random gunfire in the City. In 2017, that number soared to more than 7,241.

In 2018, the reports of random gunfire stand at 5,869. While it appears the reports of random gunfire are on the rise, it is important to note 911 often gets multiple calls for a single incident.

It could be a sign the community is being more proactive and calling it in. Right now, that could be the best reinforcement officers have. 

Residents may be disappointed but an 8News investigation in 2017 did find Shotspotter is not a perfect system. An analysis of it, discovered police using it in other cities were unable to find evidence of gunshots 30% to 70% of the time.

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