Cutting-edge technology helps Rocky Mount police fight crime

ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. (WNCN) – Law enforcement agencies across the country are using cutting-edge technology in an effort to try to stay ahead of criminals and reduce crime.

For the Rocky Mount Police Department, they’re using a tool called “ShotSpotter” to decrease the number of shootings.

“Shotspotter” is a series of microphones designed to detect the sound of a gunshot and pinpoint its location within 25 meters.

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Police are then alerted of the location almost instantly.

Rocky Mount police implemented “ShotSpotter” in 2011 and has since a 60 percent decrease in gunshots in the three-mile “ShotSpotter” coverage radius.

Police don’t want to reveal the exact three-mile coverage radius, but say the sensors were installed in parts of the city where the most gunshots are reported.

One of those areas is where Nyreek Horne, who was 13 at the time, was shot in the head while he was playing basketball with his friends at a park. His mother, Tamika, tells CBS North Carolina the shooting happened in the middle of the day and the shooter had a ski-mask on.

Nyreek Horne
Nyreek Horne

“When they told me, I just fell,” said Tamika Horne. “I would have never thought in a million years this would happen to my son. Now his life has completely changed.”

Nyreek Horne, along with three of his other friends, were injured in the 2014 shooting near the 1100 block of West Raleigh Boulevard. The shooter, Shyheim Collins, has been convicted of four counts of first-degree attempted murder and is currently in prison.

In the two years since the shooting, Nyreek has shown incredible progress but still struggles to speak and is partially paralyzed. Tamika Horne says she’s seen first-hand the impact of gun violence and says the city is still dealing with that problem.

“It’s just scary because you’re out here and never know when someone will come up, in a car, they might walk up with a gun to shoot, you just never know,” said Tamika Horne.

Others who also live in the area agree that gun violence is a problem for the community.

“You could be just walking to the store and gunshots rang out and you just accidentally get hit,” said Wayne Jones Sr. of Rocky Mount.

There are so many gunshots, some say, it’s reached a point where people sometimes don’t even call 911.

“We’ve gotten used to the gun shots now,” said Donald Sanders of Rocky Mount. “It happens so often.”

The frequency of gunshots in the area is one of the reasons why the police department implemented the “ShotSpotter” program. Police say gunshots remain a problem in the community, but they’ve seen a decrease since they put the program into place.

Sgt. David Bowers
Sgt. David Bowers

“We’ve seen very good results,” said Sgt. David Bowers who oversees the “ShotSpotter” program with the Rocky Mount Police Department.

Police say “ShotSpotter” helps with catching criminals by allowing police to respond to an area quicker than before.

“Let’s say they’re in an area and they’re hearing the shots, not knowing where they’re coming from,” said Bowers. “‘Shotspotter’ triangulates coordinates and is able to give us a relative good spot of where the shot occurred.”

Police say the program especially helps when people are not calling 911 to report gunshots.

“We’d actually prefer them [to call] rather than rely on the ‘ShotSpotter,’ but the ‘ShotSpotter’ is able to help,” said Bowers.

Law enforcement agencies in 22 states use “ShotSpotter” and Rocky Mount joins Goldsboro and Wilmington as three North Carolina agencies to use it. The program costs Rocky Mount taxpayers $180,000 dollars a year to use.

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However, some agencies believe the program is not worth the cost.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department canceled their contract with “ShotSpotter” saying it failed to deliver the results they expected and money would be better spent on other crime-reducing initiatives, according to a memo obtained by CBS North Carolina

“Although the system was able to identify the area where the shooting occurred, when officers arrived there was little evidence or suspects to discover,” the memo states. “CMPD believes this funding will have a greater impact when reallocated to other crime reduction initiatives such as street level crime cameras, Real Time Crime Center Technology and body cameras.”

But for Rocky Mount, police say residents are satisfied and the only push back they’ve experienced is privacy concerns.

Nyreek Horne
Nyreek Horne

“A lot of people are real leery about the technology because they think we’re listening to their conversations and we’re not,” said Sgt. Bowers. “‘Shotspotter’ doesn’t do that.”

For Tamika Horne, she hopes police continue to explore new methods to prevent shootings in the area. She also hopes her son, who was expected to be in a vegetative state for the rest of his life, continues to defy all odds.

“He’s getting control in his legs back,” said Horne. “And it’s giving me more and more faith, you know, he’s just happy to be here.”

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