Gunfire Incidents

It is not often that a technology company in the public safety sector talks as much about creating meaningful social change as it does catching the bad guys. But as ShotSpotter (SST) CEO Ralph Clark says, “At the end of the day, if we don’t evolve some type of change management in policing regarding how they respond to gun violence and subsequently collaborate with the community, all you have is a fancy system that puts dots on a map.”

Clark’s comments came in context to the recent release of the 2014 National Gunfire Index survey, which was sponsored by SST, recognized as the global leader in gunfire detection, location, alerting and analysis. The 2014 Summary was based on SST collected and analyzed gunfire data from a statistical sample of 47 American cities. The year over year comparisons were based on 28 cities that used ShotSpotter Flex for both 2013 and 2014; they had a median coverage area of 3.04 square miles and a median reduction of gunfire incidents of 28.8 percent for those U.S. municipalities using this technology.

The SST National Gunfire Index provides a picture of urban gun violence, but also shares some shocking insights into the overall gunfire epidemic in this country which is much greater than reported and greater than those measured in homicides alone. Some of the survey’s most interesting facts include:

A 28.8 percent nationwide drop in gunfire incidents in ShotSpotter monitored areas

•      An average of 105 gunfire incidents per day, or 4.4 incidents every hour

•      93 percent or 26 of the 28 cities reviewed saw reductions in their rates of gunfire

•      There were 33,975 separate gunfire incidents in the 47 cities analyzed, consisting of 117,161 rounds that compares to more than 11,000 homicides committed with a firearm each year in the entire U.S. —30 per day, or 1.3 homicides every hour

Like the survey, Clark is ready to admit that data, even that data collected with the SST technology, can be interpreted on several levels. However, the goal of any data Clark and his company collect for their public safety and law enforcement clients has a very succinct and focused intent – to improve their ability to deter gun violence, provide a force multiplying solution and perhaps most importantly, create a collaborative spirit between law enforcement and the communities they serve.

“It all starts with having a much clearer awareness of gun violence. Because as the world exists without this technology there is still a very limited view of what gun violence is,” says Clark, who adds that reported gun-related homicides or non-fatal shootings calls to 9-11 come in at a rate of less than 30 percent, and in some cities less than 10 percent. “The typical data-set law enforcement works with is usually very limited and flawed to some extent. Even when they do get the 9-11 call, people don’t have location specificity nor are they calling on a real time basis. There is typically a two to three minute lag before the call gets routed through to 9-11. And especially in the case of non-fatal shootings, the information shared on the incoming calls is cloudy at best as people are not always truthful about when and where they were shot. That is one of the main things we do is try to prepare agencies about the inconvenient truth about gun violence in their cities.”

Although the technology had its early adopters, many public safety agencies found the proposition of purchasing both the hardware and software just too cost prohibitive. So SST took bold steps around three years back and changed its entire business model to better reflect the cash-strapped sector it was trying to serve.

“The inflection point came when we pivoted from our legacy business model where we sold sensors and perpetual software licensees on an on-premises basis that was heavy Capex and had high price points. We began to take a fundamentally different approach and changed to a managed services business model. We now charge a much more affordable annual subscription fee, and we now own the infrastructure, deploy the infrastructure and deliver it as a cloud-based service, so there is no on-premises technology risk an agency is required to take on,” Clark explains. “What this means for us is we have to prove our metal every single year to renew our customers.

“This is a well-known and tested practice in the commercial world, but we are really pioneering this concept in the public safety sector. We went lock, stock and barrel to the managed services model with the goal of making this solution much more attainable to public safety agencies,” Clark adds.

While they may be using the fundamentals of conventional alarm dealer RMR and monitoring, servicing the public safety arena is anything but mundane. The sales process in this sector is extremely complex when compared to the commercial market, and the sales cycles are much longer. And in an environment where city and agency budgets are under constant scrutiny, the challenge of satisfying all decision-makers can be daunting as well.

“The public safety segment and law enforcement are certainly the drivers behind the purchase, but you really do need to have political leadership on your side. In many case you are also looking for funding sources that can come from either the private sector of the city themselves. Often times you are dealing with the federal government. So getting all these parties across the goal line to be able to contract, fund and deploy is a complicated process,” Clark says.

“Even after you contract, fund and deploy, the real work begins as work with the agencies and then hopefully their respective communities to get them to fully leverage the capability of the technology solution we offer.  Ultimately it is how the data is used to deter gun crime and deter trigger pullers that will gauge the success of the technology and of the agency itself,” he says. “The end game with this hands-on approach to dealing with gunshot incidents is that the community becomes much more involved when they see law enforcement taking an active role as they respond quickly, precisely and professionally to these gunfire events. The goal then is to have the citizens perform the critical ‘last mile intel’ tying trigger pullers to the incidents.”

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