Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney (R-Commack) presented his case for bringing back shot spotter technology to the county before the Suffolk County Legislature’s Public Safety Committee on June 16.
As the name suggests, shot spotter technology allows law enforcement to pinpoint the location of gunshots fired within the vicinity of the technology. Suffolk County used to have the system, but in 2019 the system was discontinued.
The technology is “even better than before,” noted a spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office. Now, after a shot is detected, the information would be given directly to patrol cars in addition to dispatch, as opposed to just dispatch.
“No child in Suffolk County should have to worry about hearing shots as they go to sleep at night in their own beds,” said Tierney before the committee. “Bystanders shouldn’t have to worry about being caught in crossfire. Parents should not have to contemplate having their children sleep in bathtubs in order to protect them from gunshots.”
As the discontinuation of shot spotter occurred under the previous District Attorney, Tim Sini (D), a spokesperson from the District Attorney’s Office was “unaware” why the program was ended. However, the same spokesperson and current District Attorney Ray Tierney (R-Commack) identified large increases in gun violence after its discontinuation.
“In 2020, there was a sharp increase as shooting incidents doubled,” remarked Tierney. Last year, in 2021, “Shootings continued to increase another 34%…” The technology is currently used in neighboring jurisdictions such as Nassau County and New York City, and throughout the region such as in Syracuse.
“DA Tierney used this technology as a prosecutor in New York City,” a spokesperson said, while reiterating what Tierney said in his own remark regarding what his prosecutors and Chief Investigator are telling him: “We need this shot spotter technology.”
“The use of this life-saving technology will also deter people from firing shots in the first place,” said Tierney.
The District Attorney is only proposing reactivating this technology in 22 square miles of Suffolk, approximately 1% of the county. This one percent of the county accounts for around half of all gun violence in the county – meaning deterring gun violence through this technology would have the greatest impact on around eight of the highest gun-crime hamlets in the county.
Throughout the course of his presentation, Tierney also revealed a fact evidently unknown to most of the public safety committee based on their reactions; a fact that is the very reason he had to turn to the legislature for funding. Suffolk County has not been in compliance with the Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section (MLARS) since September 11, 2020.
Under then-District Attorney Sini, the District Attorney’s Office was subpoenaed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in reference to what is believed by some to relate to money laundering. However, the Bureau is less than forthright with the particulars.
As a result of this investigation against the District Attorney’s Office, the District Attorney is not allowed to partake in the program, which gives local law enforcement agencies an equitable share of asset forfeitures, i.e., assets seized from criminals.
These seized assets are meant to be used to fund training, law enforcement operations, and facilities. “Shot the spot” technology would be included as an allowable expense on which MLARS money could be spent.
Without participation in the program, the District Attorney doesn’t receive money from the federal government. He also cannot access money already given – an estimated $2 million dollars.
The District Attorney’s Office is currently pursuing rejoining MLARS. The District Attorney has proposed to the Department of Justice joining on a limited basis until the investigation is cleared up. The federal government has yet to approve this deal, which would allow the District Attorney’s Office to once again engage in trainings and fund vital operations.
Of the legislative faces around the horseshoe, many clearly feel they were never made aware of information that should have been provided by DA Sini or the Bellone Administration back in 2020.