Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney and Assemb. Steve Stern...

Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney and Assemb. Steve Stern (D-Huntington) are joined by Cameron Rimmer-Hernandez's family during a news conference to announce funding for ShotSpotter in Huntington Station. The 21 year-old was shot to death last year in Huntington Station. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa Loarca

Suffolk County is poised to revive a gunshot detection program in several communities after a new report concluded it could assist police while responding to shootings.

The new report from Suffolk Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison to the Suffolk County Legislature said the use of ShotSpotter technology results in quicker dispatch and unit response times to gunfire incidents.  The legislature plans to vote on approximately $1.6 million in funding for ShotSpotter, or another gunshot detection technology, as soon as next month, officials said.

“Leveraging ShotSpotter technology could have afforded the Department timely information and a faster overall response to the incidents in question,” the June 10 report states.

ShotSpotter, which uses acoustics and GPS technologies to pinpoint the location of gunfire, was launched in Suffolk County in late 2011, beginning in Huntington Station and later expanded to Brentwood, Central Islip, North Amityville, North Bellport and Wyandanch. Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone eliminated funding for the program in 2018 amid claims from police department officials and oher critics that the technology was not effective.

ShotSpotter says it has a 97% accuracy rate. When gunfire is detected, an alert is sent to a police officer, along with information including the number of shots fired and whether they came from the street level or a higher elevation. Supporters say the technology has become more streamlined and effective since Suffolk stopped using it.

Suffolk Minority Leader Jason Richberg (D-West Babylon), who proposed the study, said he’s heard from some of his constituents who are interested in restoring the program. Richberg said he favors implementing a pilot program.

“Some communities wanted to know if we could get it back,” Richberg said. “People just trusted the system before and they were invested in it.”

The technology has critics.

“The last thing we need is to reinvest more money in faulty technology that will bring heavier law enforcement responses to bear for false alarms," said Irma Solis, director of the Suffolk chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, who added that the technology “is deployed overwhelmingly in communities of color, which already disproportionately bear the brunt of a heavy police presence.”

Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney, who last month announced the program would relaunch in Huntington Station with a $250,000 state grant secured by Assemb. Steve Stern (D-Huntington), has pushed for the deployment of the technology in several communities, saying the technology has improved since Suffolk stopped using it. Tierney also cited his time as a top prosecutor in the Brooklyn district attorney's office, where he said the technology had been used to secure criminal convictions.

The Nassau County Police Department, Freeport Police and the NYPD use the technology.

“It’s a tool like DNA, like fingerprints, ballistics,” Tierney said in a recent interview. “It’s not like by itself it’s going to save the day, but it’s one tool in the arsenal. If you have a violent war going on, how can you not have ShotSpotter?”

Tierney said the technology has improved since the county stopped using it more than four years ago. He said his office performed an analysis of gun violence in Suffolk from 2019 to 2022 which showed about 50% of it occurred in a 22-square mile area in nine communities that comprise less than 10% of Suffolk. Tierney said ShotSpotter should be deployed in the following communities: North Amityville, Huntington Station, Wyandanch, Bay Shore, Central Islip, Brentwood, Mastic-Shirley, Coram and North Bellport.

Suffolk Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison said in a recent interview that the department is reviewing the technology's usefulness. Harrison, the former chief of department at the NYPD, said ShotSpotter proved to be effective there.

The report said the department’s prior use of the technology resulted in “very limited benefit in terms of investigative value, arrests made, or aid in prosecution based on ShotSpotter activation.”

“To the Department’s knowledge, there were no reported or documented arrests or prosecutions by patrol officers responding to the scene of a ShotSpotter activation, other than a few arrests for the charge of Reckless Endangerment based on activations as the result of ‘celebratory’ gunfire,” the report said.

From June 1, 2013, to Jan. 31, 2018, there were 1,409 ShotSpotter activations, but 761 of those were unsubstantiated and another 411 were deemed false, according to the report, which said 237 were confirmed.

The report also showed that five communities -- Wyandanch, North Amityville, Central Islip, North Bellport and Brentwood -- have consistently ranked as the top five locations of shooting incidents in the county, dating back to 2010. The report also said that the number of shooting incidents in Bay Shore and North Bay Shore, if combined, would place the two hamlets in the top five.

Shootings are down this year in Suffolk, according to police department data, which shows there were 47 shootings from Jan. 1 to Aug. 2, 2021 compared with 38 in the same time period this year.

Majority Leader Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst) said the Legislature will vote on a bill as early as September to fund the technology using the county's failed $2.6 million public campaign finance program. McCaffrey estimated the gunshot detection program would cost about $1.6 million.

The Legislature killed the campaign finance program last month when it voted to override a veto from Bellone, who wanted to save it. The county will have to issue a request for proposals to determine which company's technology the police department will use.

Tierney convinced the Legislature that the technology is a good investment, McCaffrey said.

“DA Tierney came to our committee meetings to talk about ShotSpotter and said the technology could really help,” McCaffrey said. “When you overlay surveillance video with the audio from ShotSpotter, it’s really convincing to show this is the person who fired the gun. And a lot of times when shootings occur in the neighborhoods that are experiencing gun violence, people are reluctant to come forward.”

A recent study published in the Journal of Urban Health, which examined ShotSpotter’s efficacy in 68 metropolitan counties between 1999 and 2016, found the technology “has no significant impact on firearm-related homicides or arrest outcomes” and said policy solutions are likely more effective.

With Rachelle Blidner and Michael O'Keeffe 

Suffolk County is poised to revive a gunshot detection program in several communities after a new report concluded it could assist police while responding to shootings.

The new report from Suffolk Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison to the Suffolk County Legislature said the use of ShotSpotter technology results in quicker dispatch and unit response times to gunfire incidents.  The legislature plans to vote on approximately $1.6 million in funding for ShotSpotter, or another gunshot detection technology, as soon as next month, officials said.

“Leveraging ShotSpotter technology could have afforded the Department timely information and a faster overall response to the incidents in question,” the June 10 report states.

ShotSpotter, which uses acoustics and GPS technologies to pinpoint the location of gunfire, was launched in Suffolk County in late 2011, beginning in Huntington Station and later expanded to Brentwood, Central Islip, North Amityville, North Bellport and Wyandanch. Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone eliminated funding for the program in 2018 amid claims from police department officials and oher critics that the technology was not effective.

ShotSpotter says it has a 97% accuracy rate. When gunfire is detected, an alert is sent to a police officer, along with information including the number of shots fired and whether they came from the street level or a higher elevation. Supporters say the technology has become more streamlined and effective since Suffolk stopped using it.

Suffolk Minority Leader Jason Richberg (D-West Babylon), who proposed the study, said he’s heard from some of his constituents who are interested in restoring the program. Richberg said he favors implementing a pilot program.

“Some communities wanted to know if we could get it back,” Richberg said. “People just trusted the system before and they were invested in it.”

The technology has critics.

“The last thing we need is to reinvest more money in faulty technology that will bring heavier law enforcement responses to bear for false alarms," said Irma Solis, director of the Suffolk chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, who added that the technology “is deployed overwhelmingly in communities of color, which already disproportionately bear the brunt of a heavy police presence.”

Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney, who last month announced the program would relaunch in Huntington Station with a $250,000 state grant secured by Assemb. Steve Stern (D-Huntington), has pushed for the deployment of the technology in several communities, saying the technology has improved since Suffolk stopped using it. Tierney also cited his time as a top prosecutor in the Brooklyn district attorney's office, where he said the technology had been used to secure criminal convictions.

The Nassau County Police Department, Freeport Police and the NYPD use the technology.

“It’s a tool like DNA, like fingerprints, ballistics,” Tierney said in a recent interview. “It’s not like by itself it’s going to save the day, but it’s one tool in the arsenal. If you have a violent war going on, how can you not have ShotSpotter?”

Tierney said the technology has improved since the county stopped using it more than four years ago. He said his office performed an analysis of gun violence in Suffolk from 2019 to 2022 which showed about 50% of it occurred in a 22-square mile area in nine communities that comprise less than 10% of Suffolk. Tierney said ShotSpotter should be deployed in the following communities: North Amityville, Huntington Station, Wyandanch, Bay Shore, Central Islip, Brentwood, Mastic-Shirley, Coram and North Bellport.

Gunshot Detection Location System map.

Suffolk Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison said in a recent interview that the department is reviewing the technology's usefulness. Harrison, the former chief of department at the NYPD, said ShotSpotter proved to be effective there.

The report said the department’s prior use of the technology resulted in “very limited benefit in terms of investigative value, arrests made, or aid in prosecution based on ShotSpotter activation.”

“To the Department’s knowledge, there were no reported or documented arrests or prosecutions by patrol officers responding to the scene of a ShotSpotter activation, other than a few arrests for the charge of Reckless Endangerment based on activations as the result of ‘celebratory’ gunfire,” the report said.

From June 1, 2013, to Jan. 31, 2018, there were 1,409 ShotSpotter activations, but 761 of those were unsubstantiated and another 411 were deemed false, according to the report, which said 237 were confirmed.

The report also showed that five communities -- Wyandanch, North Amityville, Central Islip, North Bellport and Brentwood -- have consistently ranked as the top five locations of shooting incidents in the county, dating back to 2010. The report also said that the number of shooting incidents in Bay Shore and North Bay Shore, if combined, would place the two hamlets in the top five.

Shootings are down this year in Suffolk, according to police department data, which shows there were 47 shootings from Jan. 1 to Aug. 2, 2021 compared with 38 in the same time period this year.

Majority Leader Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst) said the Legislature will vote on a bill as early as September to fund the technology using the county's failed $2.6 million public campaign finance program. McCaffrey estimated the gunshot detection program would cost about $1.6 million.

The Legislature killed the campaign finance program last month when it voted to override a veto from Bellone, who wanted to save it. The county will have to issue a request for proposals to determine which company's technology the police department will use.

Tierney convinced the Legislature that the technology is a good investment, McCaffrey said.

“DA Tierney came to our committee meetings to talk about ShotSpotter and said the technology could really help,” McCaffrey said. “When you overlay surveillance video with the audio from ShotSpotter, it’s really convincing to show this is the person who fired the gun. And a lot of times when shootings occur in the neighborhoods that are experiencing gun violence, people are reluctant to come forward.”

A recent study published in the Journal of Urban Health, which examined ShotSpotter’s efficacy in 68 metropolitan counties between 1999 and 2016, found the technology “has no significant impact on firearm-related homicides or arrest outcomes” and said policy solutions are likely more effective.

With Rachelle Blidner and Michael O'Keeffe