Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond Tierney, along with family members of shooting victim Cameron Rimmer-Hernandezs, announced funding to bring ShotSpotter to Huntington Station. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

ShotSpotter, the high-tech crime-fighting tool that helps police pinpoint when and where gunshots are fired, is relaunching in Huntington Station — more than four years after Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone eliminated funding for the technology.

Suffolk District Attorney Ray Tierney said Friday that Assemb. Steve Stern (D-Huntington) secured a $250,000 state grant to restart the gun detection program in the Town of Huntington, parts of which have experienced spikes in gun violence in recent months. 

Hours later, Bellone, a Democrat who has been critical of the program's effectiveness, said he supports funding the program again in other high-crime communities because ShotSpotter had improved in recent years.

Tierney, a Republican who campaigned on bringing back ShotSpotter, said the technology will reduce police response time, aid law enforcement in criminal investigations and allow prosecutors to bring cases about violent gang members.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • ShotSpotter is relaunching in Huntington Station, Suffolk District Attorney Ray Tierney said Friday.
  • The gun detection program will reduce police response time, aid law enforcement in criminal investigations and allow prosecutors to bring cases against violent gang members, officials said.
  • Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, who eliminated the countywide program in 2018, says he is in favor of funding it again in high-crime areas.

The district attorney said his office cataloged all gun violence in Suffolk between 2019 and 2022 and found that more than 50% of all shootings occur in 22 square miles — representing 10% geographically of the county — spread out over nine communities, including Huntington Station.

"Gun violence anywhere is unacceptable," Tierney said at a news conference in Hauppauge. "We believe this money and this technology will save lives in Suffolk County."

Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond A. Tierney and New York...

Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond A. Tierney and New York State Assemblyman Steve Stern are joined by Cameron Rimmer-Hernandez's family during a news conference to announce funding for ShotSpotter in Huntington Station.  Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

While ShotSpotter said its technology has a 97% accuracy rate, a June 2013 county police report found about 30% of ShotSpotter activations were false, meaning the sound was not from gunfire, and another 63% were unconfirmed, indicating there was no evidence of gunshots.

Irma Solis, director of the Suffolk region for the New York Civil Liberties Union, said bringing back ShotSpotter is a mistake.

"There's no justification for reinvesting in faulty technology that will bring heavier law enforcement responses to bear for false alarms," Solis said. "ShotSpotter is deployed overwhelmingly in communities of color, which already disproportionately bear the brunt of a heavy police presence."

ShotSpotter said the technology's placement is determined by police based on historical data of shootings and homicides, and gun violence disproportionately impacts communities of color. 

Nassau has used ShotSpotter since 2009 in communities including Roosevelt, Uniondale, Freeport and Elmont, county officials said. The technology is operational in more than 125 cities and police departments nationwide, including in New York City since March 2015.

Suffolk launched ShotSpotter in late 2011 in Huntington Station and later extended the program to sections of Brentwood, Wyandanch, North Bellport and North Amityville. The county had spent $1.5 million on the program when Bellone eliminated its funding in 2018, citing the program's ineffectiveness.

On Friday, Bellone said ShotSpotter is worth utilizing again in selective areas.

"The technology has evolved in such a way that we think it makes sense to take another look and to utilize it once again," Bellone said at a separate news conference in Hauppauge. "And we think that we'll have a different experience."

ShotSpotter, Tierney said, has become more streamlined, with reports sent through an app directly to a police officer's squad car rather than through a dispatcher. Officers, he said, will be given a map of where the gunshots were fired, directions to the location, the number of shots fired and whether they came from street level or from a higher elevation.

"It's imperative to have the most advanced and cutting edge technology, which is such an important part of fighting crime today and going forward into the future," Stern said.

Restoring ShotSpotter countywide would cost between $1.5 and $1.8 million, Tierney said.

Bellone said he and county lawmakers would now look at securing additional funding to expand the program but said "deploying it in one location at a time and to look at its effectiveness is what makes sense."

In April, Suffolk lawmakers directed the county police department to take a fresh look at ShotSpotter, its past problems and what advances had been made since.

Minority Leader Jason Richberg (D-West Babylon), who proposed the study, said the analysis suggests the program is worth reviving.

"But I think we need to be more strategic with where we put it," Richberg said. "Where have the shootings been since 2018? Should we be expanding it? Should we be contracting it? Do we need to be adding different areas?"

ShotSpotter uses acoustic sensors and other technology to notify police of gunfire within 60 seconds, while also collecting data that can help prevent violence, the company has said.

Erica Rimmer, of Dix Hills, said she wishes ShotSpotter had been in place last August when her son, Luis Cameron Rimmer-Hernandez, was shot and killed by a then 14-year-old suspect in front of a home in Huntington Station.

The grieving mother said it's possible that police would have responded to the scene sooner if ShotSpotter was in place at the time, potentially saving her son's life.

"If it can prevent another mother from losing their child or their family," Rimmer said Friday at Tierney's news conference with other family members, all wearing "Justice for Cam" T-shirts. "I think this program will definitely be beneficial for another mother not having to bury their child for a senseless crime."

With Cecilia Dowd

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