HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – Shot-Spotter will soon be installed in the city of Holyoke, joining more than 135 cities across the country.
After an increase in homicides in the city this year Holyoke City Council in October accepted a nearly $65,000 grant from the Attorney General’s Office meant specifically to install ShotSpotter across two square miles. But that decision came with controversy.
Holyoke City Councilor Jose Maldonado Velez spoke out against the proposal during a September 1st meeting. “I live right in that red zone. Right now, there should be shots coming right through my window based on the fearmongering.”
He voted against the measure however, it passed in a 9 to 3 vote in October. 22News reached out to the city councilor for this story but did not hear back.
Meantime in Springfield, Deputy Chief Stephen Kent said the Department has used ShotSpotter for more than a decade. “You have a series of microphones placed around the city. You have an application on your phone so that you receive the notifications on your phone.”
In an incident from October 7th on Orange Street, the app was able to show the shooter was moving as the shots were fired, and which direction the suspect was heading. Details Kent said can be crucial in an investigation, especially when most gunshots don’t get reported to the police.
“70 percent of those there were no 911 calls,” said Kent. “We wouldn’t have been notified that someone was shooting a gun in a neighborhood without the ShotSpotter.”
But does gun detection technology reduce crime? A 2021 study in the Journal of Urban Health found gun detection technology had no significant impact on firearm-related murders or arrest outcomes.
As for Springfield, Kent remarked, “We’re not having a reduction in the number of shots fired but I think we have an increased efficiency in responding to those shots fired.”
Springfield Police said ShotSpotter reported 337 activations as of November 23rd. Among those activations, evidence of gunfire shell casings was found in 308 incidents. That’s nearly an activation a day and each time police have to respond.
This a concern Holyoke City Councilor Jose Maldonado Velez expressed on September 1st. “What it’s telling me is that it’s going to send more police to black and brown communities,” said the councilor.
That criticism was also noted by AIC Associate Professor of Criminal Justice David Kuzmeski. “With the activation police respond with the idea there’s violence and potentially there’s a gun and they’re on heightened agitation or alert which may lead to excessive stop and frisk,” said Kuzmeski.
The Springfield Police Department would not say where gun detection technology is set up but told the 22News I-Team they are in areas with increased firearms activity reported. I asked Kent if officers are likely to treat people differently when they respond to these activations. He said if people are standing around they may be treated as if they fired the shots.
“Within the bounds of the law and the constitution. But the officers have a right to protect themselves and I would expect them to do that. It may be inconvenient for some, somebody might like being yelled at or temporarily detained but the bottom line is it’s a dangerous situation,” said Kent.
Professor Kuzmeski said while gun detection technology won’t end gun crime it still serves as an important tool in law enforcement like shortening the time it takes for officers to respond to a shooting victim to give them life-saving care or using it to alert other people to avoid areas where shots had been fired.
“Let’s take the city of Springfield. Within city limits, if there’s been a discharge of a firearm that in itself is a criminal act. Do you not want a quick response?” asked Kuzmeski.
Springfield Police Spokesperson Ryan Walsh said ShotSpotter alerted officers of 44 shooting victims so far this year. Thirty of those victims he said would not have been found without the technology.