COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – While the Fourth of July weekend is full of celebrations, it also tends to include the dangerous activity of celebratory gunfire, with Columbus police warning against the behavior for the last week.
The city uses a company called ShotSpotter to help guide police to gunfire.
The company said the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve and Day are the busiest times. Fireworks, both legal and illegal, are popular around those times, too, and the company is able to detect the difference between gunfire and fireworks.
“It’s lethal and it’s harmful to communities,” said Ron Teachman, the director of public safety solutions for ShotSpotter.
Celebratory gunfire is discouraged all year round, with reminders usually issued around July 4th and New Year’s.
“Please, don’t engage in celebratory gunfire,” Columbus Division of Police Chief Elaine Bryant said in a recent video. “What goes up will come down and you have no control over what or who it might hit.”
Since 2019, the city has been using ShotSpotter to help detect gunfire; it’s now being used in four sections of Columbus.
The sensors can pick up all kinds of sounds; Teachman said the technology can filter out most noises, but not gunshots.
“What is left, which is probably gunfire, is then sent to a human to review,” he said.
According to Teachman, celebratory gunfire makes July 4th and the days around it some of ShotSpotter’s busiest. Specialists can determine the difference between fireworks and gunshots based on waveforms they can see on a computer and the direction of the sound is picked up by the sensors.
“If it’s omnidirectional, you might dismiss it as fireworks,” Teachman said. “If it’s directional, then it’s more likely to be gunfire. So that whole process of two-factor classification of machine and human takes under 60 seconds.”
When ShotSpotter detects gunshots, it lets police know where.
“It could be deadly,” Teachman said. “It could cause serious bodily injury. It very likely will cause property damage because it’ll hit a car or a house roof. Bad things happen when that bullet comes back to earth, and it will.”
According to Columbus police, ShotSpotter picked up more than 3,000 rounds in a three-hour period this past New Year’s.
“The problem with celebratory gunfire and the reasons why it’s so inappropriate is it could be lethal,” Teachman said. “The bullet that goes up in the air doesn’t stay up in the air; it comes down and when it comes down, it may strike a person or an animal.”
Numbers from the Fourth of July weekend are expected to be released this week.