New Bedford has had numerous gunshots fired in the city recently. The city, like many cities in the U.S., has a system to detect when guns are fired.

The ShotSpotter system is the one the city has been paying for since 2011. Mayor Scott W. Lang brought the system to the city as an additional tool to fight crime and make the community a safer place for normal people.

But when eight bullets were recently fired into a police officer's apartment, the ShotSpotter system didn't alert the police department of the early-morning gunfire. Eight bullets fired in a public housing project should be an easy situation for the system to detect. If it can't pick up eight bullets fired one after the other in the same location, then the system isn't working properly in New Bedford.

This past weekend, there were more gunshots fired in the city and two people were wounded. Again, in that case, it seems the system failed to notify the police of the gunfire.

Has the criminal element, an army clearly on the march, somehow disabled the listening system in certain New Bedford neighborhoods? It seems unlikely but it can't be ruled out at this point. The system relies on 20 audio sensors per approximate square mile.

Or maybe the system in New Bedford is not as large as it should be for the amount of land that needs to be monitored for illegal gunfire. According to the company, that is one of the reasons the system can underperform. ShotSpotter says "too small a deployment area to effectively drive the procedural change management necessary to have a meaningful impact".

"The cost for ShotSpotter is $65-90k per square mile per year, with a $10K per square mile one-time Service Initiation fee," according to the company.

ShotSpotter is a tremendous tool for public safety and New Bedford was smart to adopt it back in 2011. Something isn't working as it should and the City and the vendor should get together and figure out how to optimize the technology. It makes sense to bring the patrol officers and the detectives into this important conversation.

This is an opportunity for Mayor Jon Mitchell, Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro, ShotSpotter, Police Union President Hank Turgeon, and the New Bedford City Council to get together and solve a problem.

Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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