Kansas City police might expand area for gunfire detection system

07/03/2013 12:34 AM

07/03/2013 1:26 AM

A man driving around Kansas City in a stolen car in December was surprised when the car’s owner pulled up next to him and opened fire.

Neither man called police. But the ShotSpotter system did.

The gunshot detection system relayed information about the Dec. 17 gunfire to police dispatchers, who sent officers to the scene in the 4200 block of Bellefontaine Avenue. Officers found the stolen car, the victim who had been shot in the arm and the suspect, who had two guns in his car. The gunman confessed and later pleaded guilty to assault, Jackson County prosecutors said.

That arrest was one of six felony arrests resulting from the ShotSpotter gunfire detection system implemented in a small area of the city in October, according to statistics released Tuesday at a news conference by Police Chief Darryl Forte and U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II. Cleaver helped secure $720,000 in federal grant money, which will pay for the system for five years, in a partnership with transit officials.

Cleaver said he planned to seek additional funds from Washington, D.C., to expand the program. Forte said he had already identified four areas of the city for possible expansion.

Forte hasn’t released the exact location of the system’s multiple acoustic sensors because he doesn’t want to tip off criminals. But he said the system, which covers a 3.55-square-mile area involving high transit ridership, has detected 1,178 incidents of possible gunfire in seven months. Of those alerts, 977 were confirmed, resulting in dispatchers sending officers to a location. That’s an average of more than four instances of gunfire each day.

Residents in these areas had gotten so used to gunfirethat they stopped reporting gunshots years ago, Forte said. It made residents think the situation was hopeless and that police didn’t care.

“Now when they hear gunshots, we show up, and they realize, ‘Oh, they do care,’” Forte said. “It’s going to help us with relationships. It’s bigger than the numbers.”