PLEASANTVILLE — City government and police officials have watched communities such as Atlantic City and Trenton adopt the ShotSpotter gunfire locator system.

They want to have it for their residents, and they held a town hall Monday evening in the Middle School auditorium to persuade the small group of about 50 residents in attendance to vote for it and to tell their neighbors.

A referendum will be on the ballot on Nov. 6 asking whether residents would be willing to authorize $195,000 annually for three years for ShotSpotter, which works by monitoring sounds to rapidly identify and locate gunshots. It is estimated to cost a homeowner living in a $100,000 home to pay about $25 more annually each year.

Signs are visible on Main Street in the city’s downtown, which read, “Support A Safe Community Vote Yes for ShotSpotter Pleasantville Police Department.”

An official from ShotSpotter, Inc. attended the meeting along with most of the City Council and representatives from the local municipal, Atlantic City and Trenton police departments.

Steven W. Carter, a retired captain with the Denver Police Department, spoke on behalf of ShotSpotter, which he said does have a measurable effect on gun violence.

A small percentage of criminals create a majority of the gun violence, Carter said. Even though people call the police less than 20 percent of the time when there are gunshots, the community knows 100 percent of the time when shots have been fired, Carter said.

The cost of nonaction by the police is that persistent gunfire becomes normal, Carter said.

“What’s the perception? They (the police) don’t care,” Carter said.

Pleasantville Police Chief Sean Riggin spoke during the meeting and said violent crime has decreased in the city, but there have been shootings where the assailants have never been caught.

“We can do better. We need your help to do better,” Riggin said.

Pete Callaway, 64, asked why his small city needs ShotSpotter. Last year, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated Pleasantville had 20,732 residents.

ShotSpotter is not just employed in big cities, but also small municipalities such as Newburgh in Upstate New York and in Freeport, Nassau County, N.Y., Carter said.

For someone living on social security, an extra $25 a year is a lot of money, said Callaway, who added after the meeting he was in support of ShotSpotter and thought it was a good thing. City Administrator Linda D. Peyton said people will not live in the city nor will they locate their businesses here if they do not feel safe.

The city administrator would have added ShotSpotter to the budget, but they decided to let the residents vote on it, Peyton said.

Of the 90 cities that have ShotSpotter, this municipality is the first one to put it up for referendum, Riggin said.

Riggin said the average age of shooters in the city is 21 or 22, not teens, but Vernon Walker, who was in attendance, said shooters will get younger.

“I believe it is necessary. ShotSpotter is a tool that can be effective,” said Walker, 54.

Sgt. Charles Stuart of the Atlantic City Police said when there is a shooting in the resort, everybody runs except the person who cannot run. ShotSpotter keeps the police from wasting time running around the entire city.

“It’s been a great success for us,” Stuart said.

If ShotSpotter is approved by city voters, it will take about 90 days to install, Carter said.

Contact: 609-272-7202 VJackson@pressofac.com

Twitter@ACPressJackson

Staff Writer

Twenty years as a staff writer in the features department, specializing in entertainment and the arts at The Press of Atlantic City.

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