More patrols strengthen Fall River police as force aims to improve ShotSpotter technology

Leaders in Fall River are making strides towards a safer city, they announced during a news conference Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017. (WJAR)

Leaders in Fall River are making strides towards a safer city, they announced during a news conference Thursday.

Acting Chief Al Dupere said the police department added additional patrols to high-crime areas.

"Over the past month, they've had 59 arrests, given out 59 citations and were able to remove five illegal handguns from the street," Dupere said. "They seized 77 grams of crack cocaine, 95 grams of cocaine, 201 bags of heroin, plus 29 grams of heroin and over $8,000 in cash seized."

Dupere also said grants will allow the department to reach 232 officers by June 2018. Seven people will join the force in January.

While Dupere said “man-power” is helping the department, one form of technology may be hurting it.

ShotSpotter, a gun detection software, is not working well for his officers, Dupere said.

"Over 40 percent of total calls are false alarms," he said. "That's at least two police officers every time that have to go to those calls."

The California-based company uses acoustic sensors to triangulate the location of the shooting and send information to dispatchers. The sensors are placed within three squares miles of Fall River and cost the city $90,000 a year. Dupere said the sensors mistake car back-fire and fireworks for gunshots. He believes Fall River's hills are to blame and thinks sensors should be placed higher up on buildings.

However, Mayor Jasiel Correia said the company is now willing to work out the kinks.

"We went to the company, and through tough negotiations said we're canceling the contract," Correia said. "But we got them to not only give it to use for free but also help us improve the service as a test market, I guess we can call it, and secure longterm funding through grants."

Nearly a dozen cities and towns in Massachusetts use the technology. Fall River installed the system in 2013.

The Fall River Housing Authority is also working with the police department to create safer environments. FRHA received a $250,000 grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to go toward hardware upgrades, including video surveillance.

"Most of the people in the high-rise apartments are elderly and disabled, so without those cameras they really don't have the safety they should have," Rep. Alan Silvia, a Democrat who represents Fall River, said. "We're even able to film what's going on in front of the Housing Authorities where there are lot of people who reside and possible catch crime."

City leaders said they hope the advances in technology will help those within the justice system.

"ShotSpotter can be used in the court of law, used to deter criminals and catch criminals. ShotSpotter has never been used one time in Bristol County to capture a criminal or convict a criminal," Correia said.

Dupere said he will be speaking with ShotSpotter representatives Oct. 4 to discuss a plan of action.

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