As the West Palm Beach Police Department (WPBPD) set out to combat an increase in violent crime from 2017-18, the agency and city decided to take action by creating a Real Time Crime Center utilizing a range of technologies to help officers better respond to and investigate shooting incidents. The foundation of the initiative was SoundThinking’s ShotSpotter gunshot detection system to ensure real time notification and rapid response to shooting events so that more lives could be saved and gun violence driven down.
In the first full year of use, the results of ShotSpotter were clear, with the city experiencing a 29 percent decline in homicides for 2019. Officials with WPBPD attribute the significant drop to the fast response ShotSpotter alerts enable, so that officers can be notified of the precise location of gunfire in less than 60 seconds and arrive on the scene quickly to provide immediate emergency care to victims and recovery of critical investigative evidence.
Decline in Homicides in First Year
Lives Saved with Fast On-the-Scene Trauma Care
Decrease in Celebratory Gunfire in 2020
WPBPD reports at least seven cases where lifesaving aid was rendered due to the fast response from a ShotSpotter alert. That time difference was the game changer to enable one more life to be saved. Officer Anthony Testa, an Army Veteran with medical training, has personally initiated immediate trauma care for five shooting victims while waiting for Fire Rescue. As he explained, “Time is of the essence. It’s a critical time theory and that’s what we have to do.” The agency has provided individual first aid kits (IFAK) to their officers and has recently received a grant for him to instruct other officers in basic trauma medical care, allowing several other officers to provide immediate care to save more lives.
ShotSpotter has also helped improve evidence collection, led to more successful prosecutions, and provided key data that was critical in bolstering a community outreach effort to sharply reduce celebratory gunfire by nearly 50 percent during the 2020 New Years holiday. SoundThinking’s ShotSpotter gunshot detection system has been recognized in the US Conference of Mayors Business Council (USCM) 2021 Best Public-private Partnership Practices Report for their response to save lives of gunshot victims.
Ultimately, ShotSpotter gunfire data enables us to save lives b y rendering aid to victims immediately, improve evidence collection, prosecution and overall police effectiveness.