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 City Manager Letter

April 7, 2014

To the Honorable, the City Council:

I would like to provide you with an update on the deployment of the innovative technology called ShotSpotter in Cambridge. This decision originated nearly four years ago after the City Council expressed interest in utilizing this technology.

ShotSpotter is a unique resource that will offer the Cambridge Police Department and the other participating police departments in the region a number of significant benefits, if and when a firearm is utilized, including greatly enhancing police response, increasing weapon-related arrests, and ultimately enhancing public and officer safety, thereby making our neighborhoods a much safer place. ShotSpotter has been deployed in a number of cities across the country and has proven to be extremely useful in pinpointing the actual origin of gunshots (within 25 meters of the actual report).

Four years ago, Cambridge was witnessing a number of gun-related incidents. In response, the Cambridge Police Department submitted a grant application to the Boston Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) under the FY-2012 budget cycle.  While gun violence is a rare occurrence in the City of Cambridge, unfortunately, it is not entirely uncommon.  According to the 2012 Cambridge Police Annual Crime Report, hand guns had been used in 16 of the 26 homicides in Cambridge since 2000.  Fortunately, over the last few years the number of gun-related incidents has precipitously declined, with the fewest number of events occurring during 2013.

Recently, the Cambridge Police Department learned its grant application for ShotSpotter was approved by UASI, along with the Chelsea, Everett, Revere, and Somerville Police Departments. Additionally, the Boston Police Department's ShotSpotter program will be expanded.

ShotSpotter is unlike any other service currently available in the region. It provides the when, where and what of gunshot incidents and serves multiple use cases such as incident response, crime analysis, investigations, forensics and prosecutions.  The Boston Police Department has used this technology for seven years, and because the City has seen so much value in it, they are expanding their coverage as a result of the UASI grant program. 

The service works in a few simple steps. Once a gun is fired, the sound of an explosion radiates out from the point of origin.  As a result of this explosion sound, multiple ShotSpotter sensors throughout a defined coverage area are triggered.   The data is transmitted to SST Operations (the company that installed and maintains the sensors), where the data is analyzed to determine whether it was actually a gunshot, rather than some other ambient noise, and once confirmed as gun fire, the analysts will pinpoint the origin of the gun fire (generally within a 35 - 45 second timeframe).  Coordinates of the origin of the gunshot(s) are transmitted simultaneously to the Emergency Communications Center and the laptop computers in the cruisers.

Beginning in April 2014, sensors will be installed and tested throughout a 1.25 square mile area that includes parts of the Mid-Cambridge, Inman/Harrington, Riverside, Area 4 and Cambridgeport neighborhoods, in addition to a large swath of Central Square.  CPD has approached each of the owners of the 23 proposed monitoring sites to ensure that they will be able to install the sensors on their respective properties.  So far, tentative agreements have been received from all of the affected property owners.

Prior to the service being activated by June 30th, a system calibration exercise will be conducted during the course of one evening.  Community residents who potentially can hear the testing will be well informed of the calebration exersice prior to it taking place.

To learn more about SpotShotter, please visit




Very truly yours,








Richard C. Rossi


City Manager



View attached letter



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