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Behind The 'ShotSpotter' Technology In Mpls

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- It was a first for the city of Minneapolis' ShotSpotter technology: too much activity on New Year's Eve brought it to a complete stop.

The noise sensitive equipment was overwhelmed by fireworks -- as well as gunfire -- and was temporarily shut down.

Hidden throughout high crime areas of South and North Minneapolis, in places only known to Minneapolis police, are sensors designed to activate a system whenever the sound of gunfire erupts.

That technology is not perfect, but it has helped police track down criminals and they hope it helps them find the gunman responsible for killing a three year old boy.

"A pinpoint on the map of where those shots came from and I can listen to see if indeed it sounds like it was shot, "said Lt. Jeff Rugel, who oversees ShotSpotter.

Minneapolis police have used shot spotter since 2007, Rugel says New Year's Eve was the first time they had an issue with the system.

"It's like any computer any computer can be overwhelmed with data and lock," Rugel said.

Rugel believes too much noise from people celebrating New Year's Eve with fireworks and gunfire overwhelmed the system.

"It sort of froze up because of the sheer number of recordings of sounds it was getting and so the folks down in the communications center had to shut it down reboot it and then it came back up," Rugel said.

But it didn't stop police from responding to calls.

One of the busiest nights of the year, police responded to 52 shots fired calls between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. Thirty-five were detected by ShotSpotter.

"When it hears a sound something in the magic of its software it can tell the difference between a fire cracker and a gun shot," said Rugel.

ShotSpotter has helped police track down criminals, including leading investigators to the shooter responsible for paralyzing Guadelupe Hernandez last year.

Police also hope it helps track down the person responsible for shooting and killing 3-year-old Terrell Hayes, Jr.

"ShotSpotter did capture some shots in that case and they've been examined and I know homicide is looking through that evidence," Rugel said.

Rugel would love to have a mobile shot spotter system so it could be moved to areas whenever there is an emerging pattern of gunfire in a community.

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