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Local law enforcement agencies reaping benefits of new gunfire detection system

Five square miles in the Aldine area are under new surveillance using the ShotSpotter system.

HOUSTON — When Harris County deputies stumbled upon a marijuana grow house near Hardy Toll Road and Warwick Road while responding to a shooting, they said two people were detained at the house and more than $30,000 in narcotics were found.

Even though no gunshot victim was ever found, new technology led them there and could help keep the community safer.

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office and Houston Police Department are each part of a pilot program testing out ShotSpotter.

Officials said it will help authorities investigate shootings that often go unreported.

For instance, Harris County is tackling gunfire incidents head-on.

Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia said his precinct is using the ShotSpotter system. It automatically detects gunfire and dispatches deputies to the scene.

Garcia said the initial deployment of the project proved to be successful.

“Eight arrests. Confiscated five guns and have detected through the technology 290 rounds being discharged in the air,” he said.

Since that success, the program has expanded. Garcia said five square miles in the Aldine area are under new surveillance using the ShotSpotter system.

So how does it work?

Ron Teachman with ShotSpotter said sensors are strategically placed in an area.

Credit: KHOU

“We first seek permission to be on government buildings first,” Teachman said. “As you can imagine those permissions are easier to obtain. And then after we have used government rooftops to the extent that we need to fill the array then we look at privately owned commercial and residential properties.”

If gunfire is detected the sensors pinpoint the location of the shooting. The location is mapped out based on the amount of time it takes for the sound to get to each sensor. The information is then sent to an incident review center where it’s analyzed. They determine if it's gunshots and dispatch police to the area.

“Anything that we can bring into the equation that will help law enforcement do their job better and safer and bring better results, it’s obviously welcomed,” Garcia said.

He believes it will help authorities respond to scenes, help them collect evidence and make his community safer.

Analysts in the system’s review center are also trained to spot the difference between gunshots and other loud noises or bangs like fireworks.