Aldermen approve ‘shot-spotter’ application

The New Haven Police Department may soon be able to hear gunshots from across the city if a grant application for a “shot spotter” passed by the Board of Aldermen on Monday night wins approval from the Department of Justice.

This application is one of four grants dealing with crime and public safety approved by aldermen at a meeting last night. The city will also apply for another DOJ grant to pay for blogs, Web sites and list serves, all of which will provide community members with easy access to information about crime. A Department of Homeland Security grant would build a fixed wireless broadband network so secure data can be transferred throughout the city, and the most recent DOJ grant would enhance crime analysis for the city’s law-enforcers.

During a meeting Monday night, members of the Board of Aldermen debate a grant application for a city “shot spotter” that would detect gunshots within a 1.5-mile radius.
Eric Anderson
During a meeting Monday night, members of the Board of Aldermen debate a grant application for a city “shot spotter” that would detect gunshots within a 1.5-mile radius.

In a meeting overshadowed by congratulations for Ward 13 Alderman Alexander Rhodeen’s upcoming marriage, aldermen said they are also excited about the approval of the grant applications.

“I wish they would put the [shot spotter] in my neighborhood,” Ward 14 Alderwoman Erin Sturgis-Pascale said after the meeting.

If approved, New Haven will be one of the first cities to test the shot spotter, Rhodeen said. The audio sensor can discern gunshots in a 1.5-mile radius, and can distinguish shots from fireworks and and other loud noises, he said.

“I think this is a great tool that will help our police respond to and reduce the number of shootings in the city,” Rob Smuts ’01, chief administrative officer for the city, said after the meeting.

Smuts will help decide where the technology will be placed. He said he intends to set it up to cover a two-square-mile area with the most reported shooting incidents — perhaps in the Newhallville, Dixwell, Dwight or Hill neighborhoods.

Rhodeen, chair of the Aldermanic Public Safety Committee, said he is particularly interested in the improvement of the block-watch technologies, even if it “isn’t very sexy.” He said residents have been “frustrated” by how hard it is to access information about crime trends.

“It’s an obvious tool that the city hasn’t been able to create yet,” he said.

Rhodeen called the block-watch grant the city is applying for “competitive” and said he is “not entirely sure” the city will receive it.

Rhodeen added that he is confident the city will receive the grant from the Department of Justice for the shot spotter and the grant for the broadband network from the DHS. He said the grant to support law enforcement is also competitive, but that the city has received it in the past.

The aldermen passed a resolution authorizing the application for a grant that will allow the city to administer sobriety tests and patrol for DUIs from Oct. 16, 2008, to Sept. 30, 2009, as well as two motions to amend grant funding for programs dealing with HIV/AIDs prevention and health services.

Ward 23 Alderman Yusuf I. Shah finished up the meeting by raising his concerns about Halloween safety.

“It would be wise if we did something for young people in each neighborhood,” he said, adding that his ward has a community party planned.

The Public Safety and the Joint Finance/Public Safety committees will meet tonight. The next full board meeting will be Oct. 23.

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