Shooters on the run (South Africa)


Shaun Smillie, The Times

Date Published

A new technology that pinpoints from where a shot was fired has chalked up its first arrest after being tested in the Kruger National Park.

Shotspotter is being piloted in Hanover Park, in Cape Town, where the authorities hope it will bring down the suburb’s murder rate.

It is also being assessed at the park to see if it can be used to catch rhino poachers.

Surprisingly, said Ralph Clark, chief executive of SST – the company manufacturing Shotspotter – the system picked up two shooting incidents in April.

Clark said: “During a test-firing, they detected gunfire. It turned out to be a vet euthanasing an animal.”

Later more shooting was picked up and an investigating team found a freshly killed rhino, said Clarky.

The response was so quick that the poacher had time to remove only one of the horns and left a lot of forensic evidence at the scene.

Using dogs, the team was able to track and catch the poacher.

The Shotspotter, using global positioning and triangulation, was able to locate the rhino carcass to within 2m.

All the information is relayed to a control room within seconds.

The software is able to distinguish gunfire from similar noises, such as cars backfiring and fireworks detonations.

Using Shotspotter in the African bush was not without problems, such as elephants damaging the equipment and fluctuating temperatures, but the technicians were able to factor these complications into the design.

In the US the system is used in several cities and, as well as alerting police to a shooting, has proved a “credible witness”.

“It can count the number of shots fired and its evidence has been admitted by the courts in the US,” said Clark.

William Mabasa, spokesman for Kruger National Park, said the park was interested in the technology but it was expensive.