System to track gunfire in Beloit isn’t working

Power outage 2 years ago knocked Shot Spotter offline
A Beloit police squad car

System to track gunfire in Beloit isn’t working

A system aimed at tracking gunfire in the city of Beloit is no longer working, properly.

“We’ve lost our level of connectivity to the system,” Capt. Bill Tyler with the Beloit Police Department said.

The Shot Spotter system gives Beloit police ears on the streets in neighborhoods troubled by gun violence, like the 1200 block of Wisconsin Avenue. Some residents say the initiative isn’t helping.

“It’s a joke,” said John, a Beloit resident living nearby. He declined to give his last name.

“Police answer the call but it’s long after guys are out of the area.” Beloit resident Jay said. Jay also lives nearby and declined to give his last name. “They need to upgrade the system and put a lot of cameras out here to stop all these dope dealers around here.”

The system relies on a series of audio sensors placed throughout the city to detect where gunshots are fired.

The program first started in 2009, and police admit they program is having major technical problems now.

“The system is still up and running, we just really don’t have access to it the way we did prior to that time. So it’s up, it’s just not as accessible as it has been prior,” Tyler said.

He said a power outage nearly two years ago severed their connection to the system knocking them offline.

“We’ve been able to get other systems up and running since that time, since late November of 2012. But the Shots Spotter System has remained down,” Tyler said.

The city was paying the company around $40,000 a year to maintain the system. To save money, city IT workers are working on it.

“The maintenance is simply access to the system, you get no services for that $30,000 or $40,000 a year, just access to the system. When something breaks or needs to be repaired, those range in the $10,000 to $15,000 range just to get someone out here to get it fixed,” Tyler said.

Police said the goal is to get the program back online at whatever level they can within the financial constraints they’re working with.

Shot Spotter is used in other communities across the state, including Milwaukee. Legislators are considering a proposal to expand the program there. Beloit police said they’re looking at all their options to get additional funding for the program.