New gunfire detection technology to be used in Duffyfield, Craven Terrace and Trent Court

New Bern Police Chief Patrick Gallagher addresses the Board of Aldermen on the use of ShotSpotter technology. (Screenshot from Oct. 24 meeting)

The New Bern Board of Aldermen have approved funding for technology designed to provide real-time information on the location where a gun was discharged and the type of weapon that was used.

During the Dec. 12 meeting, the board approved a request from New Bern Police Chief Patrick Gallagher to execute a contract with SoundThinking, Inc. for ShotSpotter, which detects and locates gunfire incidents with the objective of giving police officers the ability to respond quicker when shots are fired.

Gallagher told the board the ShotSpotter technology will be utilized in the Duffyfield, Craven Terrace, and Trent Court areas. 

According to information provided by Gallagher, within a one square mile radius ShotSpotter can identify the sound of gunshots using sensors that are placed by the company’s engineers. A computer then triangulates the location of the shot and an acoustic expert validates the sound has come from a firearm as opposed to a similar source such as the backfiring of a car or fireworks.

According to information from SoundThinking, Inc., included in the board’s meeting packet, ShotSpotter uses a two-factor incident review process to minimize false alerts. The first tier is performed by sophisticated Al software, to filter out any incidents that do not meet the minimum threshold for human review as potential gunfire incidents. The incidents that meet the minimum threshold are then received at SoundThinking’s Incident Review Center. If the reviewer classifies the incident as a gunshot they send an alert, including location information and an audio snippet, to law enforcement agencies. 

The information states that in addition to the location of the gunfire, ShotSpotter provides details such as number of shots fired, whether multiple shooters were involved, and whether high-capacity and/or fully automatic weapons were used. 

“SoundThinking designed this entire process to be completed in less than 60 seconds,” the information states.

During a presentation at the Board of Aldermen’s Oct. 24 meeting, Gallagher said data showed the greatest number of incidents involving gun violence in New Bern over a 21-month period from 2022-23 occurred within one square mile area around Duffyfield, Craven Terrace and areas just to the south. Gallagher said over that time period his department recovered 21 firearms involved in criminal activity. He said officers recovered 329 shell casings while responding to 38 calls. In one incident there were 51 shots fired, for a total of 8.6 shots per incident, Gallagher said. 

During that time frame covered in the data, eight individuals sustained injuries involving gunfire and the department responded to three cases involving homicide by firearm, according to Gallagher.

Alderman Rick Prill asked if the system could detect a shot fired inside a structure and Gallagher replied, “It would likely not be able to pick up a shot fired indoors unless it was very close to the sensor.”

After presenting the ShotSpotter information to the board in October, a public hearing was held at the Omega Center on Cedar Street on Nov. 9 featuring representatives from SoundThinking along with the New Bern Police Department. Gallagher said the new technology was “overwhelmingly supported by members of the community at that event. I also received personal contact from several other remembers of the community that are in support of this project.”

The city’s contract with SoundThinking, Inc. is for $148,500 over three years. The first year’s cost will be $49,500 that will be paid through American Rescue Plan funds designated to Alderman Bobby Aster.

Gallagher said he had already identified stakeholders to help offset the cost to pay for years two and three of the contract. In response to a question from Alderman Barbara Best, he said he had not seen any grants he could apply for specific to ShotSpotter but there may be federal funding available through the Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

“The coverage of ShotSpotter will include Trent Court so there’s opportunity for federal monies there,” Gallagher said. 

By Todd Wetherington and Wendy Card, co-editors. Send an email with questions or comments.