Thursday, June 14, 2018

“[N]eighborhoods feeling like war zones” in West Palm Beach and could gunshot detection technology be one solution?

Below is an update about ShotSpotter, “the world leader in gunshot detection, alert and analysis solutions.” This is a law enforcement tool used to immediately identify the location of a gunshot. For the latest about this evolving and effective technology follow ShotSpotter on Twitter.

And also below is news from West Palm Beach you may have missed in The Palm Beach Post and on NBC5/WPTV as well.

But first, briefly, some background. The topic of ShotSpotter and gunfire detection technology has been a frequent one on this blog since last year. Back in June 2017 here in the City of Lake Worth there was a homicide in District 2 that rattled the community; this is the district represented by Commissioner Omari Hardy. The victim was murdered by a handgun and was the second firearm death of the year up to that point (the total number of murders by firearm in the City was five in 2017).

The public, particularly in District 2 was very concerned and wanted answers, ways to cut down on gun violence. Hardy brought up several ideas (e.g., license plate readers) and another idea was ShotSpotter technology.

However, at the same time in West Palm Beach, by mid-June 2017, there were fourteen homicides. All by firearms. On this blog and elsewhere the public was asking why not consider new tools to reassure neighborhoods and communities most affected by this senseless violence and possibly solve more of these crimes much more quickly? Last year total there were twenty-eight homicides in West Palm; twenty-six of them by firearms.

Now fast-forward to May 14th of this year and the news from NBC5/WPTV: “West Palm Beach Police announce plans for Crime Center including ShotSpotter technology” (see excerpt below). And a few days later was this news report by Tony Doris in The Palm Beach Post:

WEST PALM BEACH — West Palm police are asking the city to fund technology to locate shooting sites and catch criminals with greater ease.
     The department, which saw a 150 percent increase in murders last year, is asking the city commission for $2.2 million for gunfire-locator sensors, license plate readers and analytic systems to tie them to police and private security cameras, to speed response by helping identify where guns went off and capture criminals who fired them. [emphasis added]

Everyone should applaud the officials and West Palm Beach PD for taking this step. But the question posed on this blog many times before is: Why is WPB doing this on their own? Why not collaborate with other cities and towns? But more about that later.

In West Palm Beach there have been eleven (11) homicides so far this year according to The Palm Beach Post’s Homicide Tracker database. All were victims of firearms. Last year was a terrible year for gun violence in that city. And then in November 2017, following so much carnage from guns the editor(s) at the Post finally got involved to try and find a solution:

“Nervous — make that terrified — residents need
to see that the police department can be relied
upon to keep their neighborhoods from
feeling like war zones.”

Editor at Palm Beach Post, Sunday, Nov. 12th,
2017, “Unacceptable rise in WPB homicides
requires quicker action”.

[Once again, just a reminder: According to the The New York Times’ Learning Network, one of the responsibilities of reporters, journalists, and editors is to, “Encourage the public to voice grievances against the news media.”]

Here is the news from NBC5’s Michelle Quesada, a news segment headlined “West Palm Beach Police announce plans for Crime Center including ShotSpotter technology” datelined May 14th, an excerpt:

West Palm Beach Police announced its plans to invest in technology that will allow officers to respond to a shooting before someone calls 911.
     Right now, if West Palm Beach Police get a call about gun shots being fired, they say on average people can be off about 700 meters about where the shots came from, that’s a distance covering about 300 houses, with new technology they’re hoping to get this year, they could narrow it down to 20 meters or a single house. [emphasis added]
     “Working with ShotSpotter, some of the research that they’ve done shows that there could be up to 80 percent of the calls or incidences that we are not capturing because someone has not called and told us about it or we're not in the area and we don’t hear it, said Chief Sarah Mooney, West Palm Beach Police Department.”

Now take a moment and ask yourself: Why is West Palm Beach going it alone acquiring ShotSpotter technology? Why not collaborate with other municipalities and PBSO?

This topic was first brought up on this blog in June 2017. Would that technology have helped law enforcement address gun violence and shootings here in Central Palm Beach County (CPBC)? If the cost is prohibitive is there a way for cities, towns and villages to pool resources, possibly based on population and land area? More specifically, have PBSO and cities such as WPB, Boynton Beach, and Lake Worth pool resources and work together to acquire a regional gunshot detection system?

Or is the real problem, for some who’ve become accustomed to the status quo, is the thought of cities such as West Palm Beach and Lake Worth working together to help stop gun violence just completely unimaginable? And is there anything the press and news media can do to encourage municipalities and their elected leaders to work with each other? Or is there another scenario when the press and news media could make cooperation much less a possibility?

Let’s take for example a “paper of record” in CPBC. Last month, on May 1st, Gatehouse Media bought The Palm Beach Post and hopefully going forward nothing will ever happen again like what happened beginning in mid-2015.

The Palm Beach Post series “Bullets, Badges and Death on the Streets”.

Remember the “LINE OF FIRE” series about PBSO back in 2015–2016, an almost year-long effort? Just by coincidence, this series began running prior to Sheriff Ric Bradshaw’s campaign for re-election in August 2016. Bradshaw won that race by almost 66% of the vote. One of those blaring headlines during that series in the Post was an open-ended question, “Could riot happen here?” See that front page blaring headline below. So much for encouraging the public to remain calm.

However, on many levels of local government there is a major political shift happening in Palm Beach County and it’s called “collaboration”. For example, municipalities here in CPBC understand well our future success depends on cities, towns and villages working together, not relying on or hoping for help from the State or Federal government.

There’s nothing wrong with a regional newspaper encouraging collaboration. A newspaper doesn’t always have to be on the prowl, searching for institutions to dismantle or “take down”. Because what if the institution that needs to be ‘taken down’ or in need of entirely new leadership IS a newspaper?

Front page, below the banner blaring headline, “Could riot happen here?” which begs another open-ended question, “Was this wishful thinking on the part
of the editor(s) back in 2015–2016?”
By the way, open-ended questions should never be used in newspaper headlines. Back in 2015 the headline editor could have used the words
“Leaders Urging Calm”