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New Year's revelers urged to put down their guns

December 29, 2008 |  2:49 pm

The Los Angeles police and county sheriff’s departments cautioned the public today about firing guns in celebration of the New Year and demonstrated one of the many tools they have to track down shooters during the holiday and year-round.

“We know what goes up must come down, and what comes down does so with unpleasant circumstances,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca during a news conference at the Lynwood sheriff's station. “The person that kills lives and the person that dies, dies. It’s all really just that simple. And firing your gun into the air is a felony and we will prosecute any individuals who fire their gun illegally to the fullest extent of the law.”

Baca also took time to honor Adriana Pizarro, a Sheriff's Department secretary who died Dec. 20 in her Los Angeles home where she was hit by stray bullets.

“Mrs. Pizarro died because of a gang shooting out on her street,” Baca said. “She’s not coming back. You can’t bring her back. She didn’t have to die and this is the kind of senseless violence we are working to stop however we can.”

Pizarro, LAPD Chief William Bratton and L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas attended Pizarro’s funeral after the news conference. To cut down on gun violence in the county, the two law enforcement agencies have hosted gun buy-back events. The Sheriff's Department took in 1,800 weapons over the last two months, Baca said. And the police department has collected nearly 6,000 firearms this year, Bratton said.

Baca also talked about a gunshot location system called ShotSpotter, which has been used by the Sheriff's Department since 1999. It determines the location of gunshots by using highly sensitive noise sensors and microphones embedded in public places, such as the sides of buildings, said Michael Ries, a spokesman for ShotSpotter.

“We’ve been using the ShotSpotter system for almost a decade and we’ve been a part of, along with many other law enforcement agencies across the country, the effort to help refine it,” Baca said. “I think it’s really at a level now of accuracy and effectiveness that we can push to expand ShotSpotter throughout the county.”

Using satellite technology, the sensors narrow down the gunshot's location to within 10 feet, Ries said.

“It picks up pretty much everything that goes bang, pop or boom,” Ries said. “ShotSpotter only records sound when the sensors go off and they only go off when a gun is fired, or something that sounds like gunfire at least.”

ShotSpotter sensors and microphones are installed in a two-square-mile area between the City of Industry and Lynwood, Baca said. The system costs nearly $200,000 per square mile, Ries said, depending on the number of sensors and microphones installed. It is also being used in Oakland, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, totaling just over 100 square miles nationwide.

ShotSpotter went off Sunday night, telling deputies shots were fired in a Lynwood neighborhood, Baca said.

“No one called 911, no one called emergency,” Baca said. “But we got a report of the shooting on ShotSpotter, and we went to the scene and found a victim, and he was taken to the hospital in critical condition. That man very well could be dead, left bleeding in the street, if it wasn’t for this system.”

Deputies found the 26-year-old man in his car shot multiple times, he said. In the car with him were a 19-year-old woman, a 3-year-old child, a 1-year-old child and a 1-month-old baby, Baca said. About two-thirds of the gunshot incidents detected by ShotSpotter are never called into 911, Ries said.

The LAPD does not use ShotSpotter because it has not found the financing to purchase it, Bratton said.

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles