Columbia, SC had double the national average of violent crime, and the city has struggled with an illegal gun issue. The community was desensitized to gun violence and was not calling in gunfire incidents to police on a regular basis.
In the first six months after installing SoundThinking’s ShotSpotter gunshot detection system in April 2019, police received 778 alerts that resulted in 205 separate crime scenes within an area of the city where 75% of gunshots went unreported. Columbia PD estimated officers responded to 150 scenes during that time that they would not have visited without ShotSpotter, resulting in 39 arrests and 49 guns confiscated.
Shell casings recovered from 205 crime scenes
Of gunshots in the coverage area go unreported by residents
Reduction in homicides compared to the same time a year ago
The ability of Columbia PD to respond to more gunshot scenes faster enables officers to collect better ballistic evidence that can help solve crimes as part of the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN). For example, an illegal gun acquired by an ATF agent during a sting operation in 2020 matched the ballistics of two separate firearm shootings that police responded to in 2019 based on ShotSpotter alerts. That helped investigators build a case after the gun was reported stolen.
Gun violence destroys lives, families and communities, and reducing it is a priority for Columbia. The Shotspotter technology targets this violence, quickly puts our officers where they’re needed, and helps us identify shooters, while building trust and restoring peace in the challenged communities we serve.
We needed to make sure that even in the absence of the citizens calling in we could use data to make a difference. Lesson learned for us. We’re seeing that promise.