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West Midlands: Agreement reached not to adopt Project Safe and Sound permanently

September 21, 2012, 10:25 am

AN AGREEMENT not to adopt Birminghams Project Safe and Sound permanently will be presented to a meeting of the Police Authority next week (Thursday 27 September).

It comes after members of Birmingham Community Safety Partnerships executive board voted not to continue using the gunshot location technology which is currently coming to the end of a two-year pilot, last Thursday.

Community representatives have been consulted throughout the pilot period and, at a meeting held last month, voiced mixed opinions about the future use of the technology.

However it was determined that the system, which has traditionally been used in countries with high levels of gun crime, would not be adopted permanently.

Chief Superintendent Clive Burgess, who is overseeing Project Safe and Sound, said: “Gun crime in Birmingham is exceptionally low – and the number of people who are shot is even lower.

“This has been an interesting pilot but we have always said that technology alone will not stop gun crime.

“There have been occasions where it has been activated and we could not find a firearms incident and there have also been occasions where it has not activated after a shot has been fired.

“Twenty two people were injured with firearms in the Birmingham West and Central area between 1 April 2011 and 31 March 2012 – the majority through the use of firearms such as air-rifles and BB guns. In this context, injury by a firearm doesnt necessarily mean being shot but includes being injured by a ball bearing or electrocution by a stun gun.

“One injury is of course one too many but we are working tirelessly to tackle the criminal use of firearms through day-to-day community policing, our anti-gun education programmes, the work of our counter-gang task force and other initiatives. Project Safe and Sound was just one small element of this work.

“All of these initiatives have all helped West Midlands Police reduce gun crime year-on-year and we are committed to driving this number down even further.”

Birmingham Community Safety Partnership – a joint partnership between West Midlands Police, Birmingham City Council and other leading public and voluntary sector agencies – originally brought the technology to Birmingham in December 2010.

It was the first time the equipment had been installed in Europe, with the West Midlands leading the way with the national pilot project to examine the effectiveness of the kit in helping police further reduce gun crime.

Community representatives were on the multi-agency committee which implemented the project and have continued to oversee the use of the technology which was successful in reducing gun crime in the United States.

The technology works when a series of sensors, located high on buildings within the coverage area, detect a loud bang. When activated, the system alerts the police control room where officers re-assess the noise and deploy armed officers if necessary.

With more then one sensor activated, the system can pinpoint the gunshot with a 25 metre radius from up to two kilometres away meaning that officers save valuable time in the search for potential victims or are able to retrieve bullet cases which can then be sent to the National Ballistics Intelligence Service for forensic examination.

The location of the system was determined by an analysis of gun crime data spanning many years and therefore, where was greatest opportunity to make a difference lay. To prevent attacks on the system, the precise coverage area has never been revealed.

The Birmingham Community Safety Partnership paid about £150,000 from The Home Office Capital Grants Fund to set up the scheme, which included the cost of the technology. was used to cover the initial capital costs of £150,000 to set up the scheme, . West Midlands Police agreed to operate the pilot project and paid for the annual maintenance costs of about £21,000 – a figure due to double at the end of the year.

The year long pilot was extended after use of the technology was suspended for five months in June 2011 after routine testing identified that the manufacturers system guarantee was not met.

The pause allowed engineers to upgrade the software enabling an accurate evaluation of the project.

Between November 2011 when the system was re-activated and 29 August 2012, there were 45 activations which indicated the possible firing of a gun.

Following extensive inquiries at the scene, officers believe only five were possible gunshots. Of these, there were two instances where the use of a firearm was confirmed: one involved an empty car which had a window damaged and an incident in which a man received non-fatal injuries.

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