Pinpointing Where Gunshots are Fired

By DON STINE

If you fire a gun in certain areas of Neptune or Asbury Park law enforcement officers will be able to pinpoint the location under a proposal which has been approved by Asbury Park and, most recently, Neptune.

The joint venture requires the installation of special gunfire location technology in a 1.25-square-mile area that encompasses both towns.

Asbury Park approved entering into an agreement with Neptune at its Nov. 26 meeting.

“It will be a valuable aid in assisting us with investigations by pinpointing areas in which gun shots originate,” said Asbury Park Public Relations Police Officer Sgt. Michael Casey.

Asbury Park Mayor John Moor said, “It would be irresponsible of us to not at least try it.”

Moor said with the prosecutor’s office covering the first year and the two towns splitting the cost the next two years, funding the program is not prohibitive.

After two years, the mayor said, the city will be able to opt out of the program if it does not prove fruitful.

Neptune Township Committeeman Nick Williams, who is also on the township’s police advisory committee, said he thinks the new system “is a great idea.”

“It’s definitely a reactive tool but, if a shot is fired, police will be notified right away. The simple fact that a shot was fired will be picked up immediately,” he said.

“It’s a good tool to use.  Anything that deters crime or can boost our ability to get police somewhere fast is definitely a good tool,” he said.

The plan calls for connecting current camera systems and camera surveillance systems in both towns with technology that detects over 90 percent of gun fire incidents and gives the precise locations in less than 60 seconds. The system is intended to improve law enforcement response time and address gunfire and violent crime

There are several methods of tracking gunfire that include detecting the sonic boom of a bullet that travels faster than the speed of sound or picking up optical characteristics of a muzzle blast. A popular brand, ShotSpotter, uses an acoustics-based GPS-equipped system that automatically locates the origin of the shot and notifies authorities. A series of acoustic sensors picks up the sound waves of a muzzle blast that radiate outward from the barrel in all directions.

The gunshot alert information can be delivered into a security command center at remote locations, like police cars, as well as be sent by text message to mobile devices for operators in the field.

The Monmouth County Prosecutors Office will pay the initial cost for the system. However, after one year the two towns agree to take over all costs to keep the system up-to-date for a minimum of two years at an estimated total cost of about $90,000.  Asbury Park will pay 60 percent of the cost with Neptune picking up the rest.

Williams said the location of the system is still under review but that the program will “be targeting certain areas.”

Midtown Urban Renaissance Corporation President Dianna Harris said she likes the idea of the program.

“Anything that supports the police department in fighting crime, I am for it,” she said.

She said the program will not end all crime but that it will be a deterrent.

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