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ShotSpotter technology on Bakersfield police wish list

This promotional image from ShotSpotter illustrates how sensors in a city triangulate the location of a gunshot.

With the televised images of a Fresno shooting that made national headlines fresh on their minds, members of Bakersfield's Safe Neighborhoods and Community Relations Committee will gather Thursday to discuss ShotSpotter technology.

A network of listening devices placed in high-crime areas, ShotSpotter is credited with aiding Fresno police expedite their response to Tuesday's rampage.

"It helped them," said Bakersfield Councilman Chris Parlier, who represents a portion of south Bakersfield. "It helped them respond and get there quicker to the scene."

Parlier, who has a law enforcement background, raised the idea of bringing the technology to Bakersfield last year.

"I think we need to look at every available tool to try and help out people of certain neighborhoods and certain communities," he said.

ShotSpotter marketing material describes a network of sensors that hear and instantly identify the location of the shooter and relay the information to police.

It is on the Bakersfield Police Department's wishlist.

"It's very common for us to show up to one of our hospitals for the victim of a gunshot wound, and we never even knew that someone was shot until we got called by the hospital," Sgt. Ryan Kroeker said.

The department has submitted an application for grant money that would fund a two-year pilot program.

If the city is chosen to receive the funds, Kroeker said the microphones would be concentrated on city property in and around a 2-square mile portion of east Bakersfield that is responsible for more than a third of Bakersfield's shootings and gang-related homicides.

That area is bordered on the east and west by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and H Street and on the north and south by California Avenue and Brundage Lane.

But what about privacy? Does this system spy on residents?

"They're specifically looking for high-pitched noises, specifically gunshots, those types of things," Kroeker said. "It's not designed in any way to eavesdrop on somebody's privacy or to hear people's conversations."

The department anticipates an answer from the federal government about the grant by the middle of summer.

If you would like to make your opinion known about the idea, you are encouraged to attend the Safe Neighborhoods and Community Relations Committee meeting 9 a.m. Thursday at City Hall in Conference Room A.

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