Police officials in Holyoke made a push Wednesday to get citizens to call 911 when they hear gunshots, pointing to data that shows only about 12 percent of potential shooting incidents picked up by a new surveillance system were reported by residents.

There were 117 activations of the ShotSpotter gunfire detection technology that Holyoke deployed across about two square miles in the first six months it was in use, from March through August, according to monthly reports made available by the police department.

The system, which includes microphones that detect and triangulate the location of potential gunfire, detected a cumulative 454 rounds fired but Holyoke Police Chief David Pratt said the city got only 14 calls to 911 reporting those potential shootings.

“That’s the one that has us saying we need to get the word out to the public. And we totally understand why people do not call or are hesitant to call in these instances. But we need your help. We need to public’s help,” he said.

“I know one of the big factors people always think ‘someone will call, I heard it but someone else will call.’ They’re not calling,” Pratt added. “Know that if that’s the reason, call. Because we need the information. ShotSpotter is doing an amazing job getting us into the area, into the right area, of where we need to be. We need the public to help us with these calls to bring it home so that we can make arrests, we can recover evidence quicker.”

Police recovered 170 shell casings based on ShotSpotter activations, Pratt said, found six gunshot victims, recovered seven guns and made 10 arrests during the first six months of the city’s two-year agreement with the detection system.

ShotSpotter technology is used in more than 150 cities across the country, including locally in Boston, Worcester and Springfield. The company says it has an accuracy rate of 97 percent and a false positive rate of 0.5 percent.

Pratt said Wednesday that Holyoke police have recovered physical evidence or obtained video evidence that a shooting actually happened in “well more than 50 percent” of the system’s activations.

Some cities have been unhappy with the system and stopped using ShotSpotter, including Fall River. In 2018, city and police officials in Fall River said they could not keep paying for a $120,000-a-year gunshot detection system that then-Mayor Jasiel Correia said “works less than 50 percent of the time.” The Fall River Herald News reported that the system had an accuracy rate of about 50 percent and did not detect any of the seven gunshots involved in a February 2018 gun homicide in the city’s downtown.

SoundThinking, the new corporate name for ShotSpotter, Inc., announced late in 2022 that it had signed a 44-month contract worth more than $4 million with Massachusetts to provide the state with a multi-year subscription to Coplink X, a crime analytics platform that the company describes as “an investigative search engine and analytics tool that has amassed the largest database of police agency data in the United States to accelerate crime solving.”

The announcement said the system “will be accessible to all members of local, county and state-level law enforcement throughout Massachusetts.”

Mass. State Police paid $840,000 to the company on Feb. 1 and another $1.2 million on Sept. 26, according to the state’s open checkbook. Those are the only two payments to ShotSpotter or SoundThinking dating back to fiscal year 2010 listed in the state spending database.

(Copyright (c) 2023 State House News Service.

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