Hollister considers technology to detect gunshots

2 months ago BenitoLink

ShotSpotter aims to provide faster response times, additional investigative tools and increased safety for police officers.

Former police chief Ron Teachman told Hollister City Council the ShotSpotter system could be activated in six to eight weeks.

Hollister Police Chief Carlos Reynoso looked into the ShotSpotter technology five years ago when it cost $300,000. The cost, he said, has come down to around $50,000. Photo by John Chadwell.

The Hollister City Council has proposed a meeting with staff to consider contracting with ShotSpotter, a Fremont-based company that claims its technology helps police detect where gunshots are coming from to accelerate response time to shootings. Councilman Rolan Resendiz was absent.

Councilmembers Tim Burns, Rick Perez, and Mayor Mia Casey were in favor of moving forward immediately to bring the gunshot detection project back to them for a vote. Councilwoman Dolores Morales was cautious and wanted staff to evaluate if other companies provided similar products and if there could be cost-sharing benefits if schools and businesses agreed to have ShotSpotter equipment installed on their rooftops.

According to the company, the technology is made up of sensors placed atop buildings and on utility poles along with software which detect within a matter of feet where gunshots are coming from. This capability would help law enforcement not only respond quicker but investigate crime scenes afterward. The rooftop technology would be linked to police stations and vehicle computers—even tablets and smart watches. The software also works with Google Maps to allow police to see views of the streets they are approaching for safety purposes.

Several months ago, according to city documents, Burns requested information about ShotSpotter and how it might be used to fight crime in Hollister. It’s currently used in 135 cities, according to company representative Ron Teachman, former chief of police at New Bedford, Massachusetts, and South Bend, Indiana.

The technology would cost $49,500 annually, Teachman told the council. He said the cost is based on a per-square-mile of coverage.

“We are working with [Hollister Police Chief Carlos Reynoso] and have already determined the coverage area,” he said, adding that, typically, once a contract is signed it takes six to eight weeks to activate the technology. He said officers would receive training before the system is used.

The proposed coverage area would be bordered by Buena Vista Road in the northwest, Miller Road on the western side, South Street on the south side, Chappell Road on the west side and Roble Street on the northeast side, according to the agenda packet. The proposal would be to have the service for at least one year and then decide whether to continue with the service.

Reynoso said the police department looked at the technology five years ago, but at $300,000 the cost was prohibitive. Recent changes in ShotSpotter’s business model have significantly reduced its price from years past, he said.

“With this new pricing model, the company has reduced the cost, making it more feasible for the city,” Reynoso told BenitoLink. “The proposal would be to cover a geographic city mile, which would include the majority of the historical reported gun crimes in the city.” 

He said there were 26 shootings in Hollister between Jan 1, 2020, and September 20, 2022.  There were also 20 shootings that were reported to Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital with no information as to where the victim was shot, he said, adding that if the statistics are correct, most of the shootings are never reported to police.

“Police are showing up to calls 10-20 minutes after the shooting, if not longer, and the shooter is long gone,” Reynoso said. “If officers are responding within a minute, there is an increased chance of catching the perpetrator or rendering first aid and saving lives. But this will be a City Council decision and it will be up to them to decide if this is the direction they would like to go to increase the safety of the Hollister community.”


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