Suffolk police held the first of three public meetings Monday...

Suffolk police held the first of three public meetings Monday on plans to put ShotSpotter software in communities with patterns of firearms use. Credit: James Carbone

The Suffolk County Police Department held a community meeting Monday night in Huntington, the first of three, as it rolls out gunshot detection software ShotSpotter in several communities after a five-year absence.

The department plans to install the software in Huntington Station, one of several Suffolk communities chosen based on previous shots-fired calls.

The Suffolk County Legislature unanimously approved the $1.8 million contract with ShotSpotter in October. 

ShotSpotter uses GPS and acoustics to detect gunfire and notify police within seconds. The technology relays the timing of a shooting, the approximate location and number of shots fired, according to police.

“We know how important it is to get police to the scene faster when there’s gunfire,” said Suffolk County Chief Assistant District Attorney Allen Bode at the meeting, held at the police department's Second Precinct in Huntington.

“It’s going to save lives and prevent people from shooting guns," Bode said. "It makes a difference how quickly it takes get aid to the scene.”

ShotSpotter was initially launched in Suffolk in late 2011 but County Executive Steve Bellone eliminated funding for the program in 2018 after police officials and others asserted the technology was not effective.

In April, the county legislature, at the urging of some community members and others, directed the police department to reexamine use of the tool in light of technological advancements.

Bellone has said he changed his position due to the advancements.

ShotSpotter sensors are also being added in Bay Shore, Brentwood, Central Islip, Coram, Mastic, North Amityville, North Bellport and Wyandanch. The communities were elected based on previous shots fired calls.

“While Suffolk County is considered one of the safest communities in the country, the utilization of ShotSpotter will be an additional tool to deter gun violence,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney K. Harrison said in a statement. “The implementation of this technology will aid officers when responding to calls of shots fired by notifying them sooner, and more accurately, as well as during subsequent investigations.”

Two 6 p.m. meetings are planned for Tuesday, one at the Brentwood Public Library and another in Selden at the Suffolk Police Sixth Precinct.

At the meeting Monday night, ShotSpotter officials said they have improved technology with additional microphones added to sensors and gunshot detection reviewed by the company’s own incident review center, which then relays calls to police in less than a minute.

ShotSpotter is active in 140 cities around the country, said Kevin Bash, a company representative and former deputy police chief in Columbus, Ohio. The technology has detected 90% of gunshots in the coverage area where sensors are posted.

He said the audio technology can detect gunfire that is triangulated from multiple sensors placed on light poles and buildings to pinpoint the exact location of gunfire.

The GPS location and a Google street view is sent to patrol cars in less than a minute with audio of the shooting.

Analysts are able to distinguish the difference between other sounds like fireworks from gunfire, Bash said, and they are also able to tell police if there are multiple shooters near a scene or if automatic and high capacity magazines are fired.

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