Holyoke police chief asks residents to report gunfire, hours later police investigate shooting death
A new report shows the ShotSpotter system was activated in Holyoke, Massachusetts, 117 times, but police only received 14 calls from residents related to those potential shootings.
Holyoke police are urging residents to call, but some city officials say there's a lack of trust that may be leading to the low number of calls.
Holyoke City Councilor Israel Rivera sits on the public safety committee.
"When you have people that are going in and not having the best experiences when they come into contact with police, how are you expecting them to go ahead and call?" he said.
Rivera added that he hopes ShotSpotter can be a helpful tool moving forward, but is open to seeking alternatives to the system.
The ShotSpotter information tracks gunfire detection across two square miles in the city in the first six months they system was in use. The information was released in monthly reports made available by the police department.
The system, which includes microphones that detect and triangulate the location of potential gunfire, detected a cumulative 454 rounds fired but on Wednesday Holyoke Police Chief David Pratt said the city got only 14 calls to 9-1-1 reporting those potential shootings.
"That's the one that has us saying we need to get the word out to the public. And we totally understand why people do not call or are hesitant to call in these instances. But we need your help. We need to public's help," he said.
Shortly after the press conference police responded to multiple shootings on Sargeant Street.
Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni's office said an altercation among three men led to the shooting, with one of the rounds striking a passing bus and an uninvolved female passenger. The passenger, who was pregnant, was critically injured and taken to a local hospital. However the infant, who was delivered, died. The DA's office said the suspects, who were also hospitalized, are in custody.
Rivera said continued violence makes him question the Shotspotter system further.
"Like today, we have people, multiple victims, hurt in broad daylight in a busy street in the city of Holyoke. And all this going on around the same proximity and time as as the police department is holding a press conference and pretty much putting out their data and trying to justify ShotSpotter," he said. "Awesome. The problem is... that people are still getting shot."
ShotSpotter technology is used in more than 150 cities across the country, including locally in Boston, Worcester and Springfield. The company says it has an accuracy rate of 97% and a false positive rate of 0.5%.
Some cities have been unhappy with the system and stopped using ShotSpotter, including Fall River.
SoundThinking, the new corporate name for ShotSpotter, Inc., announced late in 2022 that it had signed a 44-month contract worth more than $4 million with Massachusetts to provide the state with a multi-year subscription to Coplink X, a crime analytics platform that the company describes as "an investigative search engine and analytics tool that has amassed the largest database of police agency data in the United States to accelerate crime solving."
The announcement said the system "will be accessible to all members of local, county and state-level law enforcement throughout Massachusetts."
Massachusetts State Police paid $840,000 to the company on Feb. 1 and another $1.2 million on Sept. 26, according to the state's open checkbook. Those are the only two payments to ShotSpotter or SoundThinking dating back to fiscal year 2010 listed in the state spending database.
This report includes information from State House News Service.