The City of Richmond, California, has struggled for decades with crime and other problems common to their area. In 2007, Richmond was ranked as the 9th most dangerous city in the nation, based upon statistics that included 47 homicides in a community with a population of 100,000. The City of Richmond faces tremendous challenges in the area of gun crimes and has addressed the issue with the Gunfire Detection and Response Program (GDARP). The GDARP identifies the location of gunshot incidents, which helps police respond more quickly to the trouble. Unless there are witnesses in the immediate vicinity of a gun crime, it can be very difficult to pinpoint the location of the incident, due to the limitations of the human ear. Even when witnesses exist, they may not report a gunshot event due to fear of retribution. As a result, many gunfire incidents go undetected and/or unreported, and a lack of evidence makes prosecution difficult.
The City of Richmond has expanded the GDARP under the COPS Office Law Enforcement Technology Program with the use of the ShotSpotter system. The ShotSpotter is a gunfire detection and location system that uses a combination of electronic acoustic sensors and software to quickly approximate the location of gunshots—to within less than 50 feet—with the immediate transmission of this information to officers who are then able to respond. When suspects are apprehended, system data can be used as part of the prosecution process. The result has been a documented rise in the apprehension rate for gun crimes in a number of communities, and a decrease in the number of gunshot incidents, as perpetrators are deterred by the higher likelihood of being caught. ShotSpotter also provides forensic and gun-related crime information for detectives and prosecutors, and assists the department in effective resource allocation.
The GDARP project has expanded the existing installation of ShotSpotter in the City, providing an additional 2.75 square miles of coverage in some of the City’s most impacted neighborhoods, including Parchester Village, Fairmede/Hilltop, North & East, Shields-Reid, Panhandle Annex, and a portion of the Southwest Richmond Annex.
The key goal in expanding deployment of the ShotSpotter system is to improve community safety in the target communities. The objectives that will help to achieve this goal include the following:
The City of Richmond has also implemented a COMPSTAT program that provides crime analysis to identify patterns and trends in each geographic area of the city. Officers and supervisors are held accountable for responding to these trends with comprehensive crime reduction efforts, including prevention, intervention, and suppression. COMPSTAT meetings between beat and supervising officers are convened monthly to promote information sharing, best practices, and accountability. The expansion of the ShotSpotter system provides additional data for the COMPSTAT program and allows the Richmond Police Department (RPD) to build upon this existing practice. ShotSpotter has expanded the usefulness of COMPSTAT to beat officers by allowing them to have “eyes and ears everywhere” within their beat.
To promote information sharing, the RPD and several neighborhood associations share crime-related data by way of the Internet using the Crimeview system. With this data, and information developed by its Crime Analysis Unit via COMPSTAT, the RPD can increase the number of officers that are needed in specific areas during high-crime hours. The RPD has also brought in members of the community to attend its monthly COMPSTAT meetings including neighborhood leaders, elected officials, and representatives from various community-based organizations. During these meetings, crime data, GDARP system data, and other information are shared, enabling officers to partner more effectively with the public.
The RPD is also a committed partner in a number of multi-party initiatives that complement the proposed use of COPS Technology funding. Beat officers and School Resource Officers (SROs) have agreed to collaborate with the City of Richmond’s Office of Neighborhood Safety (ONS) to provide at-risk youth with referrals to gang reduction related services. Officers refer young people to services that will steer them away from gang membership before they get involved in criminal activity. Information from ShotSpotter technology will enable ONS to focus its outreach in the areas of greatest need in the City.
The GDARP fits directly with the overall strategy of the RPD to combine the use of the most current policing technology with community oriented policing that engages individual residents and community organizations in the collaborative work of identifying and addressing the underlying causes of crime as a whole community. The department believes this strategy offers the greatest promise for addressing the persistent issue of violent crime in the city of Richmond. To date, the system has captured over 2,000 gunfire events, affording the police department a significant advantage in response to these events—capturing offenders, removing crime guns from their community, and facilitating the response of emergency medical services to victims of gun violence in a much reduced time span.
While there is still much work to be done, Richmond’s community policing approach is having a dramatic impact on the community. The expanded deployment of ShotSpotter technology has led to a 40 percent decline in homicides and a decrease of aggravated assaults by 21 percent. These positive efforts have increased the commitment by officers to their specific beats, and catalyzed an even stronger buy-in from neighborhood associations and residents, resulting in an increase in the number of Neighborhood Watch groups from 11 to 44 since the program’s inception.
Staff Accountant, Finance