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ShotSpotter passes Huntington Station test

Suffolk County Police Sgt. Peter Ervolina shows how

Suffolk County Police Sgt. Peter Ervolina shows how the ShotSpotter system registered two shots that were fired in a demonstration on Railroad Avenue in Huntington Station. (Dec. 22, 2011) Credit: James Carbone

It took only 34 seconds for Suffolk police to know where shots were fired Thursday morning in Huntington Station, as officers tested new gunfire detection technology activated in several communities in the past week.

Police Officer Frank Cavalieri twice fired a 9-millimeter handgun into a parked cargo van to test the ShotSpotter Flex system, which uses acoustic sensors and computer software to pinpoint shooting locations and alert authorities.

In the time it took to walk across the vacant lot where the test took place, a laptop computer had received the latitude, longitude, street address and satellite map of the site on Lowndes Avenue.

The surveillance system will help police combat crime more effectively, officials said.

"This is going to have a dramatic impact in fighting crime and gang violence in Suffolk County, which unfortunately has been a growing problem in recent years," said Suffolk County Legis. Jon Cooper (D-Lloyd Harbor).

Cooper, the legislature's outgoing majority leader, said he fought for ShotSpotter funding because the system has proved effective in Nassau County.

The surveillance equipment also was activated this week in Brentwood, North Amityville, Wyandanch and North Bellport as part of a three-year, $1.2 million lease, company and police officials said.

Huntington Station was among the targeted surveillance areas because of repeated shootings in the vicinity of New York Avenue, its main corridor, over the years. The hamlet has seen a decrease in shooting incidents -- from 31 in 2009 to 14 so far this year -- but could still use the high-tech help, said Insp. Edward Brady, the Second Precinct's commanding officer. "It will enable us to get to these scenes a lot faster," he said.

More than 30 people, including county representatives, town officials and residents, attended Thursday's test at a vacant lot targeted for redevelopment as part of town revitalization efforts. Town of Huntington Supervisor Frank P. Petrone issued a statement calling ShotSpotter "an invaluable tool" for Huntington Station.

"We need to use every tool that's at our disposal," to make the area safer, said Republican Legis. Lou D'Amaro, whose district includes Huntington Station.

While some residents expressed mixed feelings about a surveillance system in their neighborhood, others said they welcome its use.

"If it's going to help police apprehend criminals, I'm all for it," said Al White, a Huntington Station advocate. "I want the perpetrators caught."

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