City Council member calls for gunshot spotting technology in Memphis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- After a record shattering number of homicides in Memphis in 2016, a Memphis City Council member is pushing hard to add another resource to the Memphis Police Department's crime fighting tool belt.

The technology is called ShotSpotter. It picks up on gunshots in neighborhoods, then alerts law enforcement.

For Jeanette Johnson it's not just the sound of gunshots that's all too familiar.

"Came through my carport, went through my wall and the police said 'Miss Johnson if I had been standing over my bed it would have got me,'" she explained.

The 66-year-old said close calls with gunfire are common in her Frayser neighborhood.

"When they start shooting, we just drop to the floor," she explained.

Memphis City Council chairman Berlin Boyd is making it a mission to try to ease her fears.

"It's just one of those things. During this time in our city we need to try whatever tools are available," he said.

ShotSpotter works like this: a series of sensors are placed on dangerous streets. When a shot is fired those sensors pinpoint the gunfire's location and alerts dispatchers.

Just a few days ago police in New Haven Connecticut credited ShotSpotter for detecting sixteen gunshots near a school. But several years ago the police chief there actually shut the technology down at one point and considered discontinuing it because of accuracy issues and faulty alerts, which was frustrating officers and dispatchers.

"Not knowing if we were getting gunshots or if a dump truck went by," said Cathy Sargent, a dispatcher in New Haven.

However officials there said since the technology was installed in 2009 it has improved.

Boyd said last year $650,000 was allocated for gunshot spotting technology here in Memphis. He acknowledged the system might not be perfect but told us it's helping cities like Detroit, New York and California's Bay Area. He also said the technology can recognize the caliber of gun fired.

Help, Jeanette Johnson is ready for.

" We don't want to run from our neighborhood. We want to stay here! But with all the gunshots where can I go and start over at this age? "

Memphis Police told WREG they are looking at ShotSpotter as well as other gunshot recognizing technology  before deciding which one to buy.

Boyd hopes technology can be in place by the end of the year.