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Police Began Testing ShotSpotter In St. Thomas Without Giving Proper Warning To Residents First

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — The Virgin Islands Police Department said it began conducting live-fire tests of the ShotSpotter gunshot detection service on St. Thomas on Wednesday.

The purpose of the test was to verify all ShotSpotter systems are operating as expected and guide any final adjustments before activating the service.

“The ShotSpotter service is not considered live and operational until the successful completion of the live fire test,” VIPD spokesman Toby Derima said.

But residents of Estate Anna’s Retreat said they were startled by the sudden cacophony of gunfire that lasted for at least 30 minutes on Wednesday night.

The test of the ShotSpotter was conducted without proper warning to residents of areas affected by the “test” gunfire, residents said.

Police said that VIPD officers were onsite at all ShotSpotter test locations to ensure conditions for testing were safe.

The controlled tests consisted of a sequence of gunshots fired at close range into a bullet trap, according to the VIPD.

“We did not publicize it in advance, as we did not want to make it a media event,” Derima said. “No bullets were fired into the air and there was no danger to the public.”

Similar live-fire tests will be conducted on St. Croix soon. It was unclear today whether the VIPD would give warning in advance — next time.

ShotSpotter uses a wide-area network of acoustic sensors to detect when a gun is fired and then precisely and quickly pinpoints the location of the gunfire.

In less than a minute, police officers and 911 dispatchers are notified of the fully qualified and validated gunfire incidents, even if no one calls 911 – although the community is always encouraged to report the sounds of gunfire.

By quickly notifying first responders in the unlikely event of gunfire, ShotSpotter helps speed that response with precise information in order to save lives – much like a fire alarm.

ShotSpotter is a private acoustic technology system employed by police departments in at least 100 cities across the United States, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, South Africa, and the Bahamas. It uses sensors to alert law enforcement to gunfire and can help reduce response times and get gunshot victims emergency treatment.

“ShotSpotter is one of several cutting-edge technologies the VIPD is employing to ensure the safety and security of the residents and visitors of the territory,” according to Derima.

For more information, please contact the Office of the Police Commissioner at (340) 774-2211 in St. Thomas / St. John and (340) 778-2211 in St. Croix.

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