ShotSpotter Technology Helps Track Unreported Shootings

SACRAMENTO — One reason Sacramento police have adopted new technology to help pinpoint locations of shootings within city limits is because shootings, particularly in high crime areas, often go unreported.

When Luis Serrato heard the pop of a semiautomatic handgun near his Del Paso Heights home Sunday night, he says he didn’t think much of it.

“I hear [gunshots] and I’m like, oh, there goes another round. But you know, you get used to it,” Serrato said.

Two of those shots pierced the bodies of children at a birthday party at Mama Mark’s Park Sunday.

Serrato says in his neighborhood gunfire is almost a daily occurrence. He doesn’t even think to call 911 anymore.

“It’s just gunshots. Sometimes you hear them over there on the other side of the park. Sometimes back here. Sometimes on that side. So you know, you’re just like whatever,” said Serrato.

“When there’s gunfire in a neighborhood and it seems to be on a nightly occasion or a weekly occasion, people start thinking that’s the way of life,” said Sacramento police Sgt. Bryce Heinlein.

He says that’s one reason why, in some high crime areas in the city, shootings are rarely ever reported.

And thanks to new ShotSpotter technology, Sacramento police now know exactly how many shootings no one ever calls them about.

“This gives us real-time information,” said Heinlein, referring to the ShotSpotters. The devices pinpoint the exact locations of shootings, and within 60 seconds, they alert police.

In their first nine months of use, a city report shows ShotSpotters picked up 454 shootings, but of those, Sacramento residents only called police about 90 of them. During that time, the ShotSpotters were placed only in a three-mile stretch of Del Paso Heights.

“Neighbors are thinking that way all the time, someone else will report it. Well, many times that doesn’t get reported,” said Heinlein.

He says ShotSpotters are responsible for 319 arrests and 75 illegal guns being confiscated.

Unfortunately, the devices weren’t enough to prevent the two children at Mama Mark’s Park from being shot.

Serrato says the Sunday night incident will make him consider gunfire a little less “routine.”

“When it involves kids, that’s a different story. That’s, that’s children dude,” said Serrato.

ShotSpotters aren’t everywhere in Sacramento, even one shooting that goes unreported could mean someone’s life.

At this point, Sacramento City Council has already allocated funds to begin expanding the shot spotter technology to parts of South Sacramento — an expansion that is under way, according to Sacramento police.