Gulfport Trying To Reach Gunfights While Bullets Are Still Flying

Ten surveillance cameras and the technology associated with them could be the key to keep guns and bullets out of Gulfport. The city council has given Gulfport police permission to price different acoustic systems that detect gunshots within a two mile radius of the cameras.

The police chief says Gulfport must purchase an acoustic system to give his officers a real chance to catch gun toting criminals.

Imagine what it would be like for police if they dispatchers knew exactly where to send patrol cars as soon as a gunshot was fired.

"If we have that technology, we can immediately send officers before a phone call comes in," Gulfport dispatcher Cindy Myers thought.

That technology is linked to state of the art surveillance cameras. Gulfport is looking at whether it would be cost effective to arm its police department with the technology, so officers could zero in on gunfire within seconds of a blast. According to Gulfport Police Chief Alan Weatherford, the technology that's now available "is just another proactive way to address crime in our city."

Cameras and sensors set up around the city by companies like Sound and Optic Systems or Shotstopper could make it possible for police dispatchers to instantly detect a gunshot. The dispatchers then relay the gunfire location to patrol officers. Weatherford called the scenario, "Just another tool for us to fight crime."

According to the internet, 27 cities around the country use Shotstopper. Most of their cameras and sensors are installed in high crime areas. The technology can help officers identify suspects and solve conflicts. Birmingham, Alabama has the system.  And officers just made their first arrest from a Shotstopper tip.  Baton Rouge is about to place the system in an eight square mile area of that city.

As important as solving crimes is, police chiefs say the systems actually deter crime. And that's what the community keeps telling chief Weatherford it wants, crime free neighborhoods.

"Absolutely," he said. "It addresses crime. It's just another tool that the citizens have asked for to be able to address crime in their neighborhoods."

Last year, Gulfport police officers responded to more than 500 calls where a firearm was discharged. Weatherford is confident response times to those calls would improve if the city determined it was cost effective to order the camera equipment.