Hempstead Village enhances ShotSpotter to counter gun violence
Hempstead Village officials are increasing efforts to deter gun violence by enhancing the ShotSpotter network with night vision cameras, brighter streetlights, a high-tech mobile command center and additional police officers for patrols.
"All of that is going to improve the policing and hopefully it will deter people from shooting in the village," Mayor Wayne J. Hall Sr. said. "It's all about the safety of the village."
The village board earlier this month unanimously approved entering into an agreement with Nassau County to give the village $400,000 to improve ShotSpotter, a computerized system with sensors that pinpoint within seconds where gunshots are fired. Funding from the county's community revitalization program will be used to install more cameras to work with the ShotSpotter system, officials said.
Hempstead installed ShotSpotter in February 2013 to cover 3 square miles of the 3.7-square-mile village and officials credit it with deterring gun violence.
There were four gun-related homicides in Hempstead in the first five months of this year, according to the village police department.
Seven gun-related homicides were reported for all of 2013 and the same number in 2014.
Three of this year's homicides remain under investigation. Charles Smith, 35, of Hempstead, was arrested in Virginia and charged with homicide in the Jan. 1 death of Andre Graydon, 26, who was shot outside the Seduccion Bar in the village.
"The gun violence in the community is out of control," said Graydon's mother, Stephanie Draine, of Hempstead, adding she supports the use of ShotSpotter. "Every time you turn around, you hear about a shooting."
Nassau County Legislative Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Hempstead), who helped secure the funding along with former Legis. Robert Troiano (D-Westbury), said ShotSpotter "has been proven to decrease gun violence. We are going to take the streets back from criminals."
The gunshot locator system is used in several Long Island communities, including Roosevelt, Uniondale and a portion of Freeport in Nassau County. North Bellport, Huntington Station, Brentwood, North Amityville and Wyandanch in Suffolk also have installed the technology.
"ShotSpotter is a tool for the police department to get to the scene faster with the knowledge that there was some kind of gunshot that went off," said Reginal Lucas, president of the Hempstead Coordinating Council of Civic Associations. "We can't depend on someone calling."
Jack Pontious, director of the Northeast region for ShotSpotter, said fewer than one in five shootings are reported through 911 telephone calls. Hempstead paid ShotSpotter Flex, based in Mountain View, California, $160,000 for the system's first year in the village and will pay $120,000 for subsequent years to use the system.
The enhancement plans will add video cameras synced with the gunshot-location system to record in the direction of gunfire, which may provide video that can help identify suspects or witnesses, officials said.
"Technology is a huge tool for police departments, whether it is cameras, ShotSpotter or our computer . . . connections," Hempstead Police Chief Michael McGowan said.
The village also wants to have a new mobile command center in place by midsummer, officials said. It is to be equipped with radios, computers, a license plate reader and a 25-foot arm with a camera that rotates 360 degrees. The center would be used at crime and fire scenes, and large public gatherings, such as festivals and parades.
"We'll use it for surveillance and observation," McGowan said. The used vehicle was purchased through a bidding process from the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor for $70,000, he said.
The village will hire five additional police officers and spend more than $2 million to install light-emitting diode streetlights throughout the village.
"Our goal is by end of the year to brighten up the village with LED lights," Hall said. "Criminals don't like a lot of light."
Gun-related violence in Hempstead Village
Robberies/gun assaults: 1
Attempted robberies and gun assaults: 5
Total cases: 37
Total victims: 40
Robberies/gun assaults: 3
Attempted robberies and gun assaults: 1
Total cases: 36
Total victims: 39
Assault cases: 8
Robberies/gun assaults: 0
Attempted robberies and gun assaults: 0
Total cases: 11
Total victims: 12
Source: Hempstead Village Police Department