CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Charlotte-Mecklenburg police blocked off the intersection of Sam Drennan Road and Marney Avenue Wednesday morning to test its gunshot detection system.
When a gun is fired, the sound is carried into a network of audio sensors embedded throughout the neighborhood.
The program triangulates the sound and within seconds or minutes, pinpoints the location of the gunfire. That data is then sent to the 911 center, where officers can be dispatched immediately.
Grier Heights will be the first neighborhood to use the technology after Center City. It was installed last year for the Democratic National Convention.
"Since we are moving it out from Center City, we are trying to make sure it is as accurate as possible. This is based on the recommendation of the company, ShotSpotter in every city they have it in place," says Major Jeff Estes.
Wednesday’s live fire exercise consisted of shooting several rounds into a special pad with a plasma covered wrap. It’s housed in a steel reinforced chamber used to catch the bullets.
An officer fired into the drum using first, a semi-automatic pistol, then a hand-gun. Technicians with ShotSpotter calibrated the sounds at different intervals.
Major Estes says the test is about evaluating the system in Grier Heights and differentiating the "hits and the misses."
The system has its limitations, Estes says, however, the system is a beneficial tool in daily police work.
"Our policy so far is to see officers directly to where shots went. We are getting immediate response. So as soon as it goes off the company sends us a notification and we go directly there. Sometimes we find casings, sometimes not, sometimes there has been confirmed cases where we find a victim," says Estes.
Along with improving response times, the instant data will help identify crime trends in certain neighborhoods. Estes says that can help the department identify areas needing extra patrol.
Privacy advocates have voiced concerns that the system can pick-up conversations in public. Estes says the plan is to it only what its intended for.
"Maybe that will prevent anyone from getting shot or getting hurt; I think it would be good for this neighborhood," says Felicia Mclendon, a resident raising three children.
Curtis Hills, who stood to watch the test as it happened, called the ShotSpotter a "guardian angel."
"We got to start somewhere to clean it up, so let it be here. Enough is enough," he said.
Hill says he has lost too many friends to gun violence and wished the system was in place sooner. He is hopeful that it will help deter violence, but won't be fully convinced until he sees results.
"It's a different story when the lights go out."
A second testing is scheduled in Uptown 8 p.m. Wednesday.