Technology aids fight against gun violence in Helenvale

A pilot project of the innovative ShotSpotter technology in crime-ridden Helenvale from October 2017 proved to be so invaluable to investigators and first responders that the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality is determined to expand the programme to other crime hotspots.


Sensors that pick up the exact location of gunshots and inform the Metro Police and the South African Police Services within seconds of an incident, proved so useful that some unscrupulous gun-wielding thugs found themselves behind bars after firing their weapons.

Maverick Police Brigadier turned politician, Councillor John Best, emphasized that the technology highlighted the shocking under-reporting of gunshots in the Northern Areas suburb.

Currently Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Member of the Mayoral Committee for Safety and Security, Best said: “Up to 98% of all shots fired in Helenvale are not reported. Shotspotter brought this to light. We can respond quicker and can get to the scenes within two minutes.

A staggering 823 gunshots disturbed the volatile peace between 17 October and 4 December 2017 alone. This highlighted the unbearable conditions school children, students and battle-weary mothers and fathers face on a daily basis in Helenvale. 

Although it is not meant to replace the daily grind of everyday policing, ShotSpotter Technology gives first responders the edge when alerted in real time to respond quicker after gunshots are fired. The human element of fearing reprisals when the South African Police Services and the Metro Police are called is also now a thing of the past.  

 At a press conference regarding the pilot project, Best said: “I spoke with Colonel Mike Grobler from the anti-gang unit and they are picking up valuable evidence when they respond quicker.

“We launched the system on 17 October within a radius of 1km in Helenvale. Both the Cluster Operational Command Centre in Mount Road (OCC) and our Metro Police are monitoring and responding simultaneously when an incident occurs,” Best added.

ShotSpotter Technology involves the installation of acoustic sensors that can locate a gunshot within meters of where it happens and publish an alert within seconds of a trigger pull. This enables law enforcement to respond faster and to use the data for planning purposes.

Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Executive Mayor Athol Trollip said the money needed to fully implement this technology in other areas also in the unrelenting grip of crimes perpetrated with guns is a small price to pay in order to save lives.

“I had the grave misfortune over the past years to visit the families of two two-year-olds. Both of them shot ironically in the head. It is grotesque and completely unacceptable when the life of an innocent is taken due to gun violence. The experience of going to the families especially those two little victims of gang violence will stay with me for the rest of my life.

“We have seen an escalation of gangs in our areas to about 30 in the city that operate primarily in the Northern Areas but also in other parts of our city. We had a couple of gang-related murders in the Summerstrand, Motherwell and in the Central area of Nelson Mandela Bay. The crimes that we encounter on a daily basis due to gang activities are murder, attempted murder, assault, gang rape, rape, smuggling, illegal possession of firearms, burglaries and the negative impact of turf wars on schooling as schools are in some cases located on the boundary between rival gangs,” Mayor Trollip said.

During the pilot project implementation, statistical information was obtained that enables crime-prevention strategies that take into account changes in gun-shot patterns which assist to identify and concentrate on hotspot areas.

“I instructed the Safety and Security Executive Director, Advocate Keith Meyer, to identify money over the next two financial years to fund this project. We are also continuously looking at getting funding from private companies as part of their Corporate Social Initiatives to fund ShotSpotter.

“Criminals are now much more aware that continuous gun shots can get them arrested, that recorded cases are now mostly single gun shots.

“This potentially saved numerous lives since we started this project,” MMC Best said.

Watch this space for more information on ShotSpotter!

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