ShotSpotter study: Gunshots underreported to cops

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Less than one out of every five illegal gunshot incidents is reported to law enforcement, with some high-crime neighborhoods calling in fewer than 10 percent of their total shootings, according to a new analysis.

The data were released Tuesday and were compiled by ShotSpotter, the California-based gunshot detection company used by more than 80 police departments across the country, including Nassau County and Suffolk County police. The company's sensors counted 51,000 gunshots in 48 municipalities it surveyed last year -- a tally that includes Nassau and Suffolk.

More than 7,000 shots, or 15 percent, were fired during New Year's Eve, New Year's Day and July 4. There was an average of one gunshot incident every 10 minutes on Friday and Saturday nights between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., the analysis found.

The company's technology is billed as a way to pinpoint the sources and direction of apparent gunfire in order to speed police responses in areas where residents are afraid to speak out. The system uses sensors placed in certain geographic areas that pick up the sounds of gunfire and alert police.

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Suffolk police have used the gunshot sensors since December 2011. But a report released by the police department last July said that gunshots reported by the system were confirmed in only 14 instances, or less than 7 percent of the time, according to the study that covered eight months ending March 14, 2013. The department vowed to intensify its oversight of the system and issue monthly reports on it after lawmakers questioned its value.

Nassau County police have been using the technology since 2009. They say it has helped reduce gun violence and made it easier to locate and investigate gunfire.

Experts on trauma said the data are particularly disturbing because of the impact frequent gunfire can have on children.

"The gunfire index highlights the shocking frequency of traumatic events suffered by children and young adults growing up in our underserved communities," stated Dr. Steven Marans, professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine, where he directs the Childhood Violent Trauma Center. "We know all too well that the trauma and fear associated with gun violence can compromise development and lead to physical and mental health difficulties that can last a lifetime."

ShotSpotter declined to break out data for individual municipalities.

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