Atlantic City will put its gunshot-detection system to the test today — and officials are warning residents there will be shots heard in various parts of the city.
Sometime after dark, there will be a controlled test of the ShotSpotter system, which uses audio sensors to determine whether a loud noise is a gunshot, and then record things such as where it came from, how many shots there were and even if there were different calibers of weapons used.
“In light of the homicide just the other day, I wish we had it live already,” Chief Ernest Jubilee said referring to Saturday afternoon’s fatal shooting of William Clegg Jr. “We could be a little more sure about where the shots came from and whether there was more than one weapon involved.”
The sensors — which are dispersed at undisclosed locations throughout the city — have mostly been up for months, but the city was awaiting installation of the last 15. Those will be placed on Atlantic City Electric poles throughout the city.
The electric company insisted on a written agreement to use the poles and also is charging the city $100 per pole per year. City Council approved that expense a month ago, but there was still a back and forth as the city and company worked out the agreement.
While the sensors have been placed both on public and private property, this is the only charge or contract that has been required. Atlantic City Electric said both are standard whenever their equipment is used.
Now that the agreement has been signed, the system is ready to go live.
“I am excited that it is finally coming online,” Jubilee said. “I’m hoping for a successful test (today) so we can announce we’re going live.”
Police would not disclose exactly where and when the tests would take place, but said they will end by 11 p.m. A ShotSpotter employee along with Atlantic City police will conduct the test, and police are still asking that residents report anything they may hear.
“We don’t want them not to report that,” Sgt. Monica McMenamin said of possible gunshots that aren’t from the test. “We just want residents to know the test is controlled and they are safe.”
In some communities it has been reported that, on average, less than 20 percent of gunshot incidents are reported to 911, McMenamin said. The lack of reporting shots-fired incidents severely impedes the job of investigators to locate and arrest offenders.
Often in Atlantic City, gunshot victims show up at the hospital and are not forthcoming as to where the incident occurred.
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. Eventually, cameras already at various locations throughout the city will be connected to the system so that police not only can record the sound, but the cameras — alerted by ShotSpotter — can focus in on the crime scene and possibly the suspect.
Around noon today, residents also may hear loud booms when explosions are set off at Bader Field as part of the National Improvised Explosives Familiarization training course being held in Atlantic City for the New Jersey Emergency Preparedness Conference. The exercise is expected to last until about 1:30 p.m.
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