UPDATE 8/30/2016 10:24 PM
The Salinas City council voted 5 to 1 to accept $5.5 million in state funding to go towards cracking down on gang violence and implementing crime prevention tools in the city.
"I think this is a great benefit to our city at a time when our cities really hurting," said Salinas Councilwoman Jyl Lutes.
The money will be used for several things including ShotSpotter Flex, a gunfire location and detection system.
"I'm supporting this resolution with the hopes of not only are they able to detect gunfire, maybe they can detect fireworks,” said Salinas resident Al Espindola.
Funds will also be used for street outreach and to buy additional land in East Alisal to build a community space.
"I would like to be able to have community meetings there for kids to be able to come and play there,” said Chief Kelly McMillin with the Salinas Police Department. “Or maybe have music, nice community events in the shadow of the police department. I think that’s a great way to build relationships."
Residents said they're happy steps are being taken to reduce crime, but some say the money should be used for more preventative tactics, intervention and more staff.
"We have not been able to get to the criminal or people that's actually shooting them you know, that’s what we want,” said Maria Covarrubias, Salinas resident. “We want the police to hire more police even if they have to get more money for them.
"My only concern for the ShotSpotter is that we do not have enough police units to respond to the shooting quick enough," said Angela Dorado of Salinas.
Councilman Jose Castenada agreed. He was the only council member to vote against the funding.
He said the $5.5 million should be used for counseling and school programs.
"We're in a dire emergency here,” said Castaneda. “We're not asking for a new police headquarters, we actually need the crime to go down with more police officers actually being engaged with community.”
Salinas Police said they'll start to use ShotSpotter Flex in the next few months, while the new community space will take about three to four years to build. The city council also approved money for new police vehicles.
UPDATE 8/30/2016 7:01 PM: The Salinas City Council has approved a $5.5 million grant from the state to fight crime.
Salinas Police Chief Kelly McMillin is asking the Salinas City Council to accept $5.5 million from the state to combat gangs and violence within the city.
According to the city council agenda, $3.5 million is allocated for the purchase of real property and/or facilities to improve police-community relations; $500,000 to pay the salaries of violence interrupter positions for three years, and $1.5 million for three years of equipment and subscription to ShotSpotter, a gunfire location/detection system.
Bay Area cities like San Francisco, Oakland and Richmond have used the software for several years and credit it with reducing shooting deaths in their cities. That’s why Salinas police want to bring it here. McMillin looked into it several years ago, but it is an expensive program.
Here’s how it works: Sensors would be placed throughout the city, in places where violence tends to be more prevalent. If shots were fired, the sensors would identify where and when it happened. That information would be vetted through a person at the ShotSpotter command center, where they could confirm if it was gunshots and not fireworks or a tire blowout. Once the information is confirmed, it would be dispatched to patrols on the ground.
“We know within a minute or less where to within just a couple meters the gun fire was shot,” McMillin said.
In life and death situations, minutes matter. During the city’s most recent homicide on Tuesday morning, authorities were not alerted right away. The shooting was reported on the 100 block of Soledad Street; however the victim was located on Bridge Street about 15 minutes later.
"Officers heard the gunshot, but because it ricocheted off of buildings, it's hard to pinpoint using the naked ear, and so the ShotSpotter takes all that away and tells (us) exactly where it's occurring so yeah that would make a huge difference," McMillin said.
It’s more accurate and faster than CSI Units, who could investigate the direction the rounds were fired. McMillin also said under-reporting is a big problem.
"I think a lot of it is, ‘It didn't sound very close to me, so I'll let somebody closer report it.’ They think it's being reported that way a lot of times. People just don't want to get involved, or they don't recognize it as gunfire. They think it might be something else," McMillin explained.