WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — It’s been a little more than a year since the Winston-Salem Police Department implemented the ShotSpotter gunshot detection system to reduce gun crimes in the city.
From Aug. 2021 to Aug. 2022, there were 1,398 alerts. Of those, about 78 percent did not have a 911 call associated with them. That means before this technology, Winston-Salem officers were only aware of about 22 percent of the gunfire happening in the city.
“We’re implementing technology, whether it’s ShotSpotter, whether it’s the Real Time Crime Center, to fight the crime the best that we can, but we need the help of the community because they’re the ones living there,” said Capt. Amy Gauldin with the department’s criminal investigations division.
The department needs your help to fight gun violence. This week an 8-year-old girl got caught in the crossfire when a group of young guys started firing at each other. The same day, a bullet hit a 19-year-old while she was asleep in her bed.
Surveillance video shows the flash of gunfire as a group of people shot up cars at an apartment complex last week.
“A lot of them are related, and the scary part is a lot of them are random,” Gauldin said. “I say random in terms of firing, but they’re not random incidents.”
Without the community, they’re relying on the ShotSpotter gunshot detection system to get to the scenes of these crimes more quickly. That way they’re able to gather more evidence and talk to more witnesses.
“It helps us connect more crimes…generate investigative leads, which ultimately helps us to solve more crime and put the people responsible for this kind of violence in our community in jail,” Gauldin said.
The sensors are placed on the city’s northeast side, covering a three-square-mile radius. When a gun goes off, dispatch gets an alert. Then officers get a notification. It all happens within one minute.
Using the nearly $700,000 technology, officers have recovered 47 firearms and saved at least two lives in the past year.
“It’s expensive,” Gauldin said. “But if we’re taking guns off the streets, and we’re saving lives, I think it’s a win-win for everybody.”
With nearly 80 percent of gunshots not being reported to police, officers are asking you to step up and do your part.
“People living in these communities are the eyes and ears and the gun violence. They’re the ones truly impacted,” Gauldin said.
City leaders will have to decide whether to expand, maintain or get rid of the technology. ShotSpotter is funded through a grant, which runs out at the end of next year.
Based on the numbers, Gauldin thinks they can justify keeping the system because of how helpful it’s been so far.