A new high-tech gunshot detection system that was set to be unveiled in Huntington Station will soon be coming to four additional high-crime areas across Suffolk County more than a year after it debuted in Nassau County.
Suffolk County lawmakers passed legislation Tuesday night to widen the scope of ShotSpotter Gunshot Location System, which alerts officers to gunfire within seconds using GPS and gives cops the ability to respond to shootings before anyone calls 911. The pilot program is slated for a three-year run and will cover a total of seven square miles: two each in Huntington Station and Brentwood and one each in Wyandanch, North Amityville and North Bellport.
“I don’t believe any community should be pitted against another community in search of this type of technology,” said Legis. DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville), who represents two of the communities with high gun-crime rates.
Gregory and other legislators had been pushing to get the technology into their districts after Majority Leader Jon Cooper (D-Lloyd Harbor) succeeded in getting it in Huntington Station, where gang violence had gotten so bad the local school board closed a nearby elementary school last summer. Proponents said the technology has the potential to improve police response times to shootings, thereby aiding investigations and helping victims get help sooner.
A bill to purchase the equipment was set aside in favor of a certificate of necessity from County Executive Steve Levy, who said leasing the equipment would be cheaper in the long run when factoring in maintenance costs.
The legislature’s budget review office said ShotSpotter will cost $450,000 in the first year, $334,000 in the second year and $330,000 in the third year. It is paid for out of a police fund set aside to pay for new crime fighting technology and will be installed by July 1, just in time for the usual spike in violence during the summer.
The only exception is North Bellport, where an anonymous donor gave the county $120,000 to have the technology brought to the community, as long as there was a five-year commitment.
“I have been fighting for the installation of ShotSpotter for more than a year and I am glad that County Executive Levy has decided to support our efforts,” said Legis. Kate Browning (WF-Shirley), whose district includes the North Bellport.
Levy, who has been skeptical of the effectiveness of the technology, is taking a wait-and-see approach.
“By the time the pilot program is completed, we will have first-hand results available to us from a variety of locations to determine if the technology is useful in enhancing police response to gunshots or if it is overwhelming the system with false reports,” he said in a statement.