Nassau police add cameras to gun detection system

Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano announced Tuesday that the existing "ShotSpotter" gunfire detection system has been upgraded with video cameras that will automatically turn toward the sound of gunfire. The cameras have been installed in the Roosevelt and Uniondale communities. Videojournalist: Chuck Fadely (Aug. 6, 2013)

The Nassau Police Department has added video cameras to its gunshot-location system, technology that officials said Tuesday will further deter crime.

The cameras work in concert with the ShotSpotter Gunshot Location System. They pan in the direction of gunfire within four to seven seconds, officials said, which may provide key video evidence for quick arrests.

The cameras have been synced with the system in Roosevelt and Uniondale, where ShotSpotter was first installed in 2009 at a cost of $900,000.


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The technology upgrade and the purchase of an undisclosed number of cameras has brought the total cost to more than $1 million, which was financed with asset-forfeiture money and federal grants, officials said at a Westbury news conference.

Deputy Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter said the results of ShotSpotter have been "dramatic," and he expects the cameras to further enhance crime-fighting.

"We're placing the cameras based on intelligence," Krumpter said.The ShotSpotter system uses sensors that pick up the sounds of gunfire and then alerts police. Police departments in Boston and Washington also have added cameras to the ShotSpotter system, officials said.

Jason Starr, director of the Nassau chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union in Hempstead, said there's "little evidence" that video surveillance is a crime deterrent. The police department needs to ensure officers working with the technology are cognizant of privacy rights, and while the ACLU has not received any complaints from the public regarding the new program, it's "ready to take action if needed," he said.

"While we understand the need to utilize technology for public safety, there needs to be clear rules and procedures for retention, storage and destruction of video surveillance images."

But Charles Fisher, founder of the Hip-Hop Summit Youth Council, which has a chapter in Hempstead, defended the program. "From my discussions with the criminal element, they don't want to be nowhere near that system," he said.

"If they're aware of it," he said, "those areas automatically become dry spots, cold spots, instead of hot spots."

Ernest Catanese, 86, co-president of Uniondale Neighbors in Total Effort, or UNITE, said officers from the First Precinct who brief his group at its monthly meetings say the system is effective and has provided leads. "I feel safer with them," he said.

Nassau police said the technology has reduced gunshot incidents by 90 percent since its first year in use, and Insp. Kenneth Lack, a police spokesman, said there have been several arrests attributed to the system.

But a recent Suffolk police report said there were "no documented arrests" by officers based on any of the alerts that were installed in North Amityville, Huntington Station, Wyandanch, Brentwood and North Bellport. ShotSpotter officials have disputed the report's findings.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican who is running for re-election in November, said he couldn't understand why Suffolk's ShotSpotter system wasn't working as well as Nassau's.

"The reactive video technology . . . protects the public safety, protects the officers that are responding and provides important evidence," Mangano said. "Now when you add the video, you have a clear picture of what's happening at the scene."

Suffolk Deputy Police Chief Kevin Fallon said Suffolk is monitoring the program until the end of the year. "At this point, the jury's still out," he said.

Suffolk Legis. Kate Browning (WFP-Shirley) said adding cameras makes sense, but she wants Suffolk police to "look at where the disconnect is between ShotSpotter and the police department."

Det. Sgt. Patrick Ryder, commanding officer of Nassau's Intelligence Unit, showed a ShotSpotter video from earlier this year that captured a shooting in progress.

An arm extended from the backseat of a black Buick LeSabre in Roosevelt, firing three bullets at a motorcyclist, which police said was gang-related. A suspect was arrested and charged with attempted murder, he said. "We leverage technology in this department to make smart decisions," Ryder said.

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