VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – ShotSpotter is a technology that detects the sound of gunshots.

Police in departments that use the technology, including in Virginia Beach, are notified in less than 60 seconds. Newport News also uses the ShotSpotter technology.

“The alert enables us to go and hopefully apprehend the offender,” said Capt. William Zelms, Virginia Beach Police commanding officer of the training bureau. “Locate and preserve evidence and, importantly, render aid to potential victims.”

A ShotSpotter Incident Review Center acts as the middleman to make sure the sound is indeed gunfire, not something like fireworks.

“That is reviewed by human ears and verified for gunfire, then sent to our officer for response,” Zelms said.

He said only one in five gunfire incidents are reported nationwide.

The ShotSpotter technology tries to put officers in the right places.

“We need to be where gunfire is occurring. These sensors allow us to respond to those communities which we know for a fact that has been affected negatively by gun crime violence,” Zelms said.

ShotSpotter Response (Courtesy: ShotSpotter)

The technology was introduced in Virginia Beach after the police department had a series of gunfire incidents in early 2021.

Zelms said city leadership asked what tools they needed. ShotSpotter was on the list.

“The return on that investment through the numbers of alerts we are receiving we could otherwise not receive before,” Zelms said. “The number of arrests and the number of guns and ballistic evidence we have recovered is invaluable.”

Right now, the technology is around the Oceanfront and in the western part of the city.

Zelms said Virginia Beach Police hope to expand to a third coverage area.

The coverage areas are selected based on crime statistics.

“This technology is only targeting offenders of gun crime,” Zelms said. “It is not targeting any other community. It is based on factual articulable data.”

The technology led to a total of 37 arrests – seven this year.

Police have already received almost 50 alerts of gunfire in 2023.

Zelms said ShotSpotter has allowed them to take violent criminals off the streets.

“Anytime we take a violent perpetrator off the street, it makes our community safer,” Zelms said. “It lets them know we are going to be responsible for holding them accountable for their actions. Anyone who is willing to recklessly fire a firearm throughout our city indiscriminately without regard for people around them needs to know they are going to be held accountable,” he said.

The ShotSpotter Incident Review Center notification (Courtesy: ShotSpotter)

Zelms said this is just one tool the police department is using to fight gun violence.

He said they still need help from the community.

Zelms encourages anyone who hears gunfire to call 911, even if the ShotSpotter technology is around your area.