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ShotSpotter: South Bend Police say technology helping 'solve crime'

ShotSpotter technology is used regularly at South Bend Police Department.// Hilary Powell, WSBT 22 News.

We're learning more about a shooting Monday that left one man grazed in the head by a bullet. Police say they're still investigating.

They were alerted to the shooting by ShotSpotter.

In an exclusive interview, WSBT 22's Hilary Powell got a rare look at the technology police say helps them listen for the sound of gunfire and respond even before people call 911.

On December 11, Birdsell and Linden heard the sound of 15 gunshots.

"We received a ShotSpotter notification of multiple rounds. And officers arrived to find that someone was struck by a bullet,” said South Bend Police Captain Dan Skibins.

Before police showed up to the scene, they tracked the sound of gunfire behind a desk.

SBPD uses ShotSpotter acoustic sensors scattered around South Bend to be their ears when shot are fired.

"We often times find additional evidence from a ShotSpotter activation," Skibins said.

Using metal detectors to pick up shell casings even after shootings where the public doesn't call 911.

When technicians out at ShotSpotter headquarters in California are alerted to a shot, they can inform squad cars, equipped with ShotSpotter technology within 60 seconds. Officers say it's usually even faster than that.

Skibins says technology is getting the community more involved. In the last four years, call-ins to police have jumped 25-percent.

“So you have a neighborhood that becomes desensitized to gunfire. With seeing law enforcement showing up now to most, if not every one that ShotSpotter receives an activation on, or detects, now they realize that law enforcement is going to be out there when shots are fired,” said Skibins.

St. Joseph County Prosecutor Ken Cotter believes the system has helped him solve homicide cases.

"Before we had to rely on witness statements, now we have forensic evidence to be able to verify where the shots came from, how many shots fired, and who fired first,” Cotter said. "“It’s a new way of using old technology to be able to fight crime. Maybe a better word is, solve crime.”

Police say they still need the public to be their eyes to say what they see.

Police stress if someone ever hears gunfire, they should call 911 immediately.

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