ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — As Rochester continues to see high homicide rates across the city, there’s one tool police have that is credited with quick response times — and saving lives.

It’s a set of microphones, in place, in key areas around the city. It’s called ‘ShotSpotter’. Lieutenant Greg Bello says the second a loud bang goes off, it starts its job. 

“It then runs those sounds through a computer algorithm — through their system, through the software, and it determines whether or not it’s suspected or not to be gunfire,” Bello said.

If the computer figures it to be shots fired, it sends out an alert. Mind you, ShotSpotter has gotten so good over the years, it knows the difference between things like fireworks, a dumpster slamming, and guns. 

“Once ShotSpotter goes off, you can almost guarantee there are shots associated with it,” he said.

And on those alerts — ShotSpotter is an application on police officers’ phones and in cars, giving an almost exact location of the incident.

And the system isn’t across the entire city, rather — it’s in key areas like Clinton, Lake and Genesee, and Goodman. “At least half the city is covered by ShotSpotter,” Bello said.

Bello says in a shooting — seconds count. “It would take somebody seeing or hearing gunfire, and then making the decision to call 911, which is then talking to a 911 operator, which is then a 911 operator getting it over to a dispatcher, then the dispatcher getting it over to us,” he said.

ShotSpotter he says has undoubtedly saved lives. “This is a key tool that allows first responders to get there, both police and EMS and the fire department — all first responders to get to a scene quicker.”

And what those microphones look like and precisely where they are, Bello’s not saying. “Nope,” he said laughing.

ShotSpotter is used in big cities across the US. It is also used in foreign locations — like Africa — to combat illegal poaching of endangered wildlife.  

A map detailing ShotSpotter locations (News 8 WROC Photo / Christian Garzone)