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Shots fired calls ‘off the charts’ in Syracuse thanks to ShotSpotter tech, says police

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
First Deputy Chief of Police Joe Cecile.

The service that allows police to detect where gunshots are being fired in the city of Syracuse, is up for renewal. ShotSpotter is assisting police with investigations, but also driving up the statistics in one area of crime.

First Deputy Chief of Police Joe Cecile said in almost every category, most calls for crime in the city of Syracuse are down except for shots fired.

“They’re off the charts, because we didn’t have this technology before," Cecile said. "We were relying on just the residents to call it in. That category is higher and we have to respond to each one of these because we don’t know if it’s an actual person hit or not.”

The ShotSpotter service started last year and in that time, the number of shots fired calls the department received went up by nearly 200, from 239 calls last year to 434 calls this year.

The service relies on acoustic sensors set up around the city that can pinpoint where a gunshot occurred down to a five-square-foot area. Within 5-10 seconds, the signal goes to 911 and the location gets dispatched to police.

Cecile said the service has helped police get to a scene faster and locate handguns left by a shooter.

“Many times you can’t tell where that shot came from," Cecile said. 'It’s up the street, it’s over there, it’s behind my house. It is because of Shotspotter pinpointing the exact location, that we’ve been able to find the handguns.”

It will cost the city of Syracuse more than a quarter million dollars to renew the service for another year. City councilors expressed interest in expanding the service beyond its current three-square-mile radius.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.