The Bakersfield Police Department has the green light to move forward with implementation of the gunshot-detecting ShotSpotter system.
The Bakersfield City Council unanimously approved an agreement with ShotSpotter Technology Inc. at its Wednesday night meeting. The company will install about 70 sensors in Bakersfield that detect and record gunfire and alert the police — within less than a minute — to the location of the gunfire.
"We believe ShotSpotter will help us achieve our goals by building community trust, improving police service and making our city a safer place," Capt. Joe Mullins said at the meeting. "A faster response time to incidents is critical to effective public safety. Getting to the scene faster means getting aid to the victims quicker, evidence is obtained and retained and witnesses are still on scene and can be identified."
The council also approved the appropriation of $430,000 from a federal Project Safe Neighborhoods grant to help pay for the implementation of the system.
The grant covers the installation and operation of the system for two years, paying for its installation, training for officers, and evaluation of the system’s effectiveness.
The grant doesn’t cover a subscription to the data provided by ShotSpotter. The city is matching $103,451 from the Board of Community Corrections Trust to help pay for costs that the grant doesn’t cover.
If the BPD decides it wants to continue using the system, the department will have to obtain additional funding or set aside some of its own budget for it.
The sensors will be placed within a three-square-mile area that runs north from Brundage Lane to California Avenue and east from Chester Avenue to Washington Street, with legs that continue north through the Baker Street neighborhood.
The BPD said they have decided to focus on that area because 28 percent of reported gunfire comes from the area — and it represents just 2 percent of the city’s land area.
"We had a school assembly for a bunch of sixth-graders at Bessie Owens School and asked how many of them had ever heard gunshots," Mullins said. "They all raised their hands, and some of them laughed and said they heard gunshots on their way to school that day. This is unacceptable in our city. This sort of acceptance — this learned helplessness — leads to an erosion of faith in the law and in law enforcement."
Councilman Willie Rivera and Andrae Gonzales both expressed their excitement and appreciation for the ShotSpotter system.
"The ShotSpotter gunshot detection system is something I think southeast Bakersfield certainly stands to benefit from," Rivera said. "I'm really interested in seeing how it helps us out in the field over the next two years. I think it's a welcomed addition to this community."
Added Gonzales: "I'm very excited to see what comes of it. I'm interested in seeing the aggregate data once we deploy all of this new technology."
Police Chief Lyle Martin said in a December Safe Neighborhoods and Community Relations Committee meeting that the goal is to finish installation of the sensors by mid-February. The system would then be tested with practice fires. The goal is to have the system fully operational by early March.
In other matters, the City Council approved a contract between the BPD and the Bakersfield City School District to employ two full-time school resource officers.
BPD said it worked with the district last year to come up with the pilot program, which is aimed at reducing chronic absenteeism and truancy, violence, drug and alcohol use and other disciplinary issues.
Under the contract, the officers will work Feb. 1 through June 30. If that goes well, BPD will consider a more long-term commitment with BCSD.
The city will be paid $5,837 by the school district every two weeks during the work period, according to the contract. For the most part, the district will not be charged when school is not in session.