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City Council May Extend ShotSpotter Contract In Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH (AP) - City Council hopes to extend a contract to use technology that identifies gunshots and automatically notifies police in Pittsburgh's highest-crime areas.

Councilman Ricky Burgess wants the city to spend $135,000 to extend the city's contract to use ShotSpotter through 2016.

The city began testing the system in 2014 and has so far paid SST Inc. $194,000 to install its equipment and operate the system through the end of last year.

The company, based in Newark, California, has developed a system that uses sensors that pick up gunfire sounds and relay that information to a technician. The technician is able to determine the location and whether the noise is actually gunfire and alert police within 30 to 45 seconds.

"It has proven to both save lives and solve crimes," Burgess said. "It has been a good added tool to improve public safety."

Police credit the technology with helping them arrest a homicide suspect last week, and say it has made the area where it's used safer.

"It provides specific location information as well as the number of shooters and the type of firearm so that officers are better prepared when they arrive," police spokeswoman Sonya Toler said.

Police arrested Charles McKinney, 41, of Penn Hills, minutes after they say he killed 29-year-old Janese Talton outside a Pittsburgh bar early Friday. She's the sister of Democratic state Rep. Ed Gainey and was allegedly shot after she rejected McKinney's advances.

Mayoral spokesman Tim McNulty said SST has agreed to keep servicing ShotSpotter for the city even though its contract expired Dec. 31.

"We're still working with the company," McNulty said Wednesday, with the understanding that the contract will likely be extended through this year. "We have a good relationship with them, and we're moving this legislation through."

Burgess initially introduced legislation to spend up to $1 million to install ShotSpotter and separate video surveillance cameras in the city's highest crime areas. That was eventually scaled back so the city could see how ShotSpotter worked in a three-mile-square area that includes Homewood, a blighted neighborhood that's among the city's most dangerous.

McNulty said ShotSpotter could be used in other areas after this year.

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"Obviously, it's working. We like it," McNulty said. "We'd like to work with the community and the police to see where we can expand it. Of course, once we expand it, the cost will go up."

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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