Targeting gunfire would cost $400K

Struggling to bring down the homicide rate and gun violence, The City is turning to a high-tech gadget that will immediately alert law enforcement when a gun is fired and figure out the location of the shooter within seconds — as thousands of shots are fired in San Francisco every year.

San Francisco would follow other cities, such as Oakland and Redwood City, which have implemented ShotSpotter technology, which uses acoustic sensors to detect shots fired and the location. The City wants to roll out the technology as a pilot program in the crime-plagued Western Addition and the Bayview. It would detect gunfire in approximately a 1-square-mile area in each neighborhood.

The pilot program would cost The City $400,000. The Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee will vote Wednesday on whether to approve the expenditure. If approved, the system would be operational within 60 to 90 days.

In September, Mayor Gavin Newsom threw his support behind the plan, saying “lives can be saved.” Newsom noted that 85 percent of last year’s 85 homicides were committed with a gun, up from 60 percent in 2005. The plan comes as The City has seen 90 killings so far this year. Two years ago there were a decade-high 96 slayings.

The ShotSpotter system, made by a Mountain View-based company, is supposed to be able to increase arrest rates and deter gun crimes.

It’s unclear how many guns are fired in San Francisco, but the Police Department receives about 2,300 to 2,400 calls a year reporting shots fired and at best 50 percent of them are reported, said Mikail Ali, acting director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.

San Francisco General Hospital has reported that the number of gunshot-wound victims treated at its trauma center more than doubled between 2003 and 2006 to nearly 230.

Gang violence and narcotics-related incidents result in guns being fired, and there are occasions of “celebratory” gunfire or people shooting guns who “just want to see how it sounds,” Ali said.

Gunfire related to crime in Oakland decreased by 30 percent since the system was installed there a year ago, according to Ali.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, an advocate of ShotSpotter, said the statistics from the program will help hold law enforcement more accountable as he has heard complaints from constituents that they “always hear gunfire” but there is little response.

Four police sergeant squad cars would be equipped with a detection system that will, within seconds of a shot fired, alert the officer and home in on the location of the shooter. The dispatch service would also be alerted of the shot fired and the location as well as the lieutenants on hand at both the Bayview and Northern District police stations.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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