County Executive Steve Bellone is seeking to end the use of the ShotSpotter technology that relies on sound equipment to locate the origin of gunfire in high crime areas — a move that brought protests from town and county officials.
Bellone disclosed in his 2017 budget proposal that he was dropping funding for ShotSpotter without stating a reason.
Suffolk has used ShotSpotter since 2012, in communities including Huntington Station, North Bellport, North Amityville, Wyandanch and Brentwood. Over that period the program has cost $1.5 million, although a $250,000 local grant funded the North Bellport site for part of the time.
Legis. Kate Browning (WF-Shirley), public safety committee chairwoman, called the cut “a bad idea.” Bellone “is sending a message to criminals that we’re going back to the good old days where they could have a free-for-all,” Browning said.
Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory said ShotSpotter has been “an effective tool” that pinpoints gunfire and gives police a starting point for investigations. Gregory (D-Amityville) said the program has reduced gun violence in areas where it is operating.
Gregory said Bellone will have to prove there are problems with the technology or better alternatives before lawmakers will back the move.
“You can’t put a price tag on public safety especially in communities facing gun violence,” said Gregory, who heads the budget working group that oversees amendments to Bellone’s budget.
Legis. Kevin McCaffrey, GOP caucus leader, said that after discussing the issue with police officials he is not convinced the program is worthwhile.
“I’m not sure it’s that effective in reducing the number of shootings or determining who is responsible,” said McCaffrey, of Lindenhurst.
ShotSpotter, according to the company, is used in more than 90 cities, including New York City, where former Police Commissioner William Bratton adopted the technology in parts of the Brooklyn and Bronx last year. Nassau County also uses ShotSpotter.
“We are rather shocked, and to say the least disappointed that the county did not share with us that they were considering eliminating ShotSpotter and did not seek our input,” said Huntington Supervisor Frank P. Petrone.
Noel DeGerolamo, Suffolk Police Benevolent Association president, said he was not consulted, but expressed confidence Bellone and police Commissioner Tim Sini, “vetted all the facts” before making their decision.
Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider said Bellone’s budget proposal makes a “major commitment” to hiring police officers.
“Budgeting is about making choices … we’re investing in things that we think are more effective,” Schneider said.