MPD makes first arrest based on ShotSpotter notification

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Two weeks after their rollout, Memphis police say ShotSpotters are already proving to be an effective crime-fighting tool and have even yielded one arrest. 

Pier Askew, 32, was arrested April 11 after ShotSpotters detected gunshots in Orange Mound. While on scene, officers say they heard three more gunshots and, within seconds, the ShotSpotters confirmed those shots were coming from three blocks away. 

Police stopped Askew in that area and found a loaded Glock with an extended 26-round magazine, as well as an additional 13-round magazine.  

“Part of that arrest was because ShotSpotter is so real time, it allows us that swift action into that area,” said MPD Interim Director Mike Ryall. 

Some have questioned why MPD didn’t deploy ShotSpotters sooner given that City Council set aside $500,000 to purchase them in 2016. 

“The money’s been allocated, it was allocated a long time ago,” former Council Chair Berlin Boyd told WREG April 1.   

But Ryall said police wanted to do their due diligence before committing to ShotSpotters.  

“We did the proper vetting and proper searching and made sure that we had the right process in place rather than rush to a decision prematurely and then have to backtrack,” he said. 

With a record-breaking 334 homicides in 2020 and already at least 83 so far this year, ShotSpotters may end up playing a role in managing those numbers. That’s because Ryall said MPD intends to put more emphasize on solving lower-level violent crimes like aggravated assaults.  

“An aggravated assault is just one step away from a homicide,” said Ryall. 

He said he plans to beef up staffing levels at MPD’s investigation bureaus but acknowledged that MPD is more than 400 officers short of its 2,500-officer goal. 

“We’re losing more than we’re gaining,” Ryall said.  

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