Atlantic City needs just one thing before activating a system that the police chief said will “drastically reduce gunplay” — electricity.
Or, at least, the electric company’s approval.
An agreement that would allow audio sensors to be installed on 15 of Atlantic City Electric’s poles is still being worked out before ShotSpotter can go live.
The audio-detection system triangulates the location of loud noises, distinguishing gunshots from other sounds, such as fireworks. Once a sound is determined to be a gunshot, police are notified of the location, usually in less than 40 seconds, according to the company. The time and how many shots were fired also are recorded.
“Officers will know instantaneously exactly where (a gun is fired),” police Chief Ernest Jubilee said. “It’s going to be a dramatic difference, and it’s going to drastically reduce the gunplay because our response is going to be immediate.”
Sensors began going up in undisclosed locations throughout the city in January, but due to the triangulation system, they cannot be turned on until all of them are up.
“We only have to put those last modules up, then (ShotSpotter) can come and tune the system and turn it on. Probably in a day,” Jubilee said. “As soon as the lawyers agree, we’re good to go.”
Last week, City Council approved paying Atlantic City Electric $1,500 to place sensors on 15 of its electric poles. But things still aren’t complete as the city goes back and forth to finalize a memorandum of understanding to use the poles.
The agreement is a necessary step since the poles have live electricity, Atlantic City Electric spokeswoman Lendel Jones said. It will set forth parameters such as how far the sensors must be from the wires.
Jubilee said he did not want to discuss details of the agreement.
“We haven’t talked about any other arrangements with people who are helping us because we don’t want anybody to do anything to them for participating,” Jubilee said.
But this seems to be the only such agreement. And there have been no other charges in exchange for allowing the sensors to be placed.
Jones said $100 per pole is the standard cost for any equipment the utility allows to be added.
For security reasons, the city will not say where the sensors are, but it is known that public housing projects, private homes and city businesses have all agreed to let the city put up the sensors. No other payment agreements have been voted on by council.
“Atlantic City Electric is a lot different from a homeowner or local business person,” Jubilee said.
While he didn’t want to talk too much about the current hindrance or the location of the sensors, he did laud the system — and the changes he believes it will make.
“I’m sure the folks that have been doing the shooting in Atlantic City are going to have a rude awakening when ShotSpotter is turned on,” Jubilee said. “Those one- and two-minute response times go away.”
So, too, may the quick escapes that shooters — and sometimes their victims — make.
Police responding to shots-fired calls in the city often arrive at scenes to find neither a shooter nor a victim, only to later find someone has gone to the hospital with a gunshot wound. When those victims aren’t cooperative, police often are unable to locate a crime scene or necessary evidence.
“We’ll be able to return to that exact scene,” he said. “If the victim and the shooter leave, we’ll still know where to go. The chances are we’ll encounter both of them as they try to leave the scene.”
Eventually, the system is expected to be integrated with existing cameras, so that shootings can be heard and seen. Remote access to cameras will allow them to follow a suspect’s or victim’s flight.
“Things are going to change in town as far as even firing a gun,” Jubilee said. “I think it’s really going to change the gunplay in Atlantic City in a positive way.”
Atlantic City first started looking at ShotSpotter in December 2011, when Camden already had the system in place with camera integration.
At that time, Tourism District Commander Tom Gilbert told The Press of Atlantic City that he spoke with Camden’s police chief, who said officials there were so happy with the system, they planned to expand the coverage.
Trenton also has the system.
Contact Lynda Cohen:
Follow @LyndaCohen on Twitter