East side neighborhoods still waiting for Shot Spotter to help with crime

Shot spotter technology: 6 months later

In east San Antonio, there have been three people shot in the past nine days in a one block area near Hays and New Braunfels.

The latest incident, just before 11 p.m. Wednesday, killed a 26-year-old woman who neighbors say was just walking home from a convenience store.

Her name has not been released by the medical examiner.

On Sunday, a man in his 20s was hit twice by gunfire, but he survived.

On November 8, 31-year-old Darnell Gatlin also survived an attack. Police say he was shot three times in the same area.

Six months ago, City Councilman Alan Warrick said Shot Spotter technology might save lives in that same neighborhood.

Shot Spotter is a system that uses multiple listening devices in an area to triangulate exactly where gunshots are fired. The tool is designed to give law enforcement a way to get to the scene of a shooting quickly, whether neighbors call for help or not.

Warrick said that from April 30, when the program was installed, until October 1, there were over 100 gunshots in the Shot Spotter zone in east San Antonio where people did call for police assistance. 

“Fifty-one gunshots went off on the east side and nobody called the police, but the police showed up and that's because of Shot Spotter,” said Warrick, who is concerned about the long-term impact constant gunfire will have on children growing up in the area. “Because now that we know where these gunshots are occurring and how frequently they're occurring, we know that these kids are hearing more gunshots than some kids in Afghanistan or Iraq. So what does that mean? They're going to have Post Traumatic Stress. And it's going to carry over to their school life, their work lives for the parents.”

San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said that there have been only two arrests in six months from Shot Spotter calls. He noted that after a request from Warrick, SAPD started responding to all Shot Spotter calls more quickly, with lights and sirens, to send a stronger message to criminals with guns.

Warrick said he was concerned about response times, so he asked for stepped-up enforcement.

“It's great that we have police showing up, but if they're not showing up in time to actually apprehend some of these criminals, I think we're missing an opportunity there,” Warrick said.

A woman who heard the commotion outside her door during Wednesday’s shooting and awoke to find blood in the street, said she is so afraid of random stray bullets that she doesn’t let her 23-month-old daughter sleep in her home’s front bedroom.

“I don't want her to catch a stray bullet and the police don't come fast enough,” said the mother, who didn’t want to be identified for fear of retaliation.

She said that several months ago, she did notice a brief increase in bike patrol efforts during daytime hours, but when it is dark, she says she sees very few police on patrol.

“It seems like the police are scared too. It's like they wait until everything dies down and then that's when they want to pull up, after all the gunfire is over with,” the Hays Street resident said. “They are always a dollar short and a minute too late. Everybody is gone when they show up. Only thing that’s going to be there is the dead body. Ya'll pulled up too late.”

“It's just crazy how it's getting over here,” said Diana Gonzalez, who is raising her four children on Hays street.

Gonzalez said that her home has not been hit by stray bullets, but the house across the street has been hit in the crossfire.

“Yes, I'm scared. They can hit us or hit my kids or anybody out here. We need them over here to be taking care of our neighborhood,” Gonzalez said.

Marcela Licon said that when she heard the gunfire Wednesday night, she thought her roommate might be a victim because the woman was late getting home from work.

“I messaged her. I was afraid that she was caught in the crossfire, but thank God she wasn’t,” said Licon, who moved to the east side about a year ago because she loves the idea of community. “My neighbors are great and we have a strong sense of community. I’m hoping it will get better because I believe with time and with action, and if we do things, things will get better.”

On the west side of New Braunfels Avenue, people who belong to the Dignowity Neighborhood Association recently formed a subcommittee to study and come up with an action plan for how to reduce crime in the area. They hope to take a multi-faceted approach to the problem by strengthening small businesses and supporting community events that will bring people together.

(© 2016 KENS)


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