YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The Youngstown City Safety Committee had a lengthy discussion Thursday about the possibility of expanding or getting rid of the city’s Shotspotter system.

Shotspotter is used to locate gunfire in Youngstown. Currently, it’s only set up in a specific part of the South Side, known to be a high-crime area.

During the meeting, representatives from Shotspotter gave a presentation on how the system works and what types of functions it offers.

Trish Layne, midwest regional director for Shotspotter, explained that the system not only detects gunfire but identifies the types of guns being used, and if multiple guns are fired, it can determine which gun was fired first. It also sends out an alert through a smartphone app so officers are able to respond to the area before even being dispatched. 

However, Youngstown police Lt. Mohammad Awad said one of the disadvantages is that often, the shooter is already gone by the time police arrive at the scene.

“Those who are on foot are still within the immediate one-to-two block area. We’re able to respond, we’re able to stop them… But if they were in a vehicle, they were long gone by the time we received the alert,” Awad said.   

After the Shotspotter presentation, another presentation was given by a different company hoping to create a new partnership with the City of Youngstown. 

Representatives of Flock Safety explained how they could offer the city a gunfire sensor as well as a license plate detector. 

“Those sensors, similarly to other gunshot detection systems, alert and notify officers when shots are fired. That then pairs with our license plate reading vehicle recognition technology, so that it’s not just the alert that a shot occurred, it’s also the notice of, ‘A shot occurred, and here are all of the vehicles in the surrounding area at that time,’” said Laura Holland, community affairs manager with Flock Safety.

The license plate detectors can be put into high-crime neighborhoods and be used in conjunction with the gunfire sensors. 

This means, when a shooting occurs, police will be able to go back and view any vehicles that were in the area at that time.

It will also allow police to put out a BOLO for specific vehicle descriptions and license plate numbers and will alert officers within seconds if the vehicle is detected.

“That system, that service, is providing the information and data to make arrests on more organized and more efficient killers, robbers, shooters, etc.,” Awad said. “The license plate reader service they provide would automatically notify us when that vehicle goes by that system, we can have officers there immediately.”

Right now, the city is paying roughly $77,000 annually to operate and maintain the Shotspotter system, which covers a great portion of the South Side. 

Flock Safety would charge $25,000 per square mile for the gunfire sensor. It will also cost $2,500 per license plate detection camera. 

Some concerns were raised by committee members about hiring another company when the city already has a contract with another license plate detection company, Blue Line Solutions. They questioned whether it would make more sense to utilize that company’s services instead.

In the end, the committee decided they would like to see a comparison between the license plate readers from Flock Safety and the ones from Blue Line Solutions to determine which would be the most effective route to take.