Newark adds municipal gunshot detection system

Newark has selected the California company Shotspotter for a gunshot detection system to improve police response time by pinpointing the location of gunfire.

Originally developed for the United States military, the wireless gunshot sensors will be used in Newark along with police surveillance cameras already in place.

"We are pleased that we are able to add yet another tool to our arsenal," Newark Police Director Garry McCarthy said yesterday. "Through our continued use of innovative policing tactics coupled with state of the art technology like mobile data computers, wireless cameras, and now gunshot detection systems, we will continue to drive out violent crime," he said.

The contract for the $1.2 million system will be paid for by the Newark Community Foundation, a nonprofit group that collects donations and distributes grants.

The city was also weighing bids from two other companies, Safety Dynamics and Planning Systems Inc., but selected the Mountain View, Calif.-based Shotspotter because of its proven track record, officials said. Newark officials visited several cities using various gunshot detection systems, including Tijuana, Mexico.

"If you take a look at their national work, they're clearly the market leader," said Hans Dekker, director of the Community Foundation of New Jersey, which manages the Newark Community Foundation.

Gunshot detectors will be mounted on structures over a 7-square-mile area. When triggered, Shotspotter sensors will provide police with the location, number of shooters, and number of shots fired.

"City leaders must continually (be) innovative and implement new solutions to combat the epidemic of gun violence," said Shotspotter President and CEO James Beldock.

Shotspotter's Gunshot Location System has also been installed in 27 cities around the country, including Washington, D.C., and East Orange. Newark's neighboring municipality first introduced gunshot detectors made by Planning Systems Inc. in 2005, and deployed a Shotspotter system in 2006, according to Detective Andrew DiElmo of the East Orange Police Department. Both systems are in operation in East Orange.

Gunshot detectors are viewed as a "useful tool" for investigative purposes, and the East Orange police also consider it a crime deterrent, DiElmo said. However, there have been issues about gunshots that go undetected by sensors.

"Does it work 100 percent of the time? No," said DiElmo. "We have had incidents where the sensors haven't alerted us."