Gainesville police will soon be able to solve shootings within a matter of hours, thanks to new technology.
“This is a tool that, if we can use to get somebody who is committing a crime today off the streets, we might have saved somebody’s life,” said David Chudzik, public information officer at the Gainesville Police Department. “That makes all the difference in the world to us.”
The $144,853 purchase of the Brasstrax Acquisition Station was approved unanimously by the City Commission. The purchase of the equipment is part of the city’s One Community Initiative, which includes support for community-oriented policing, community education efforts and the hiring of a public safety coordinator. As of now, the police department can’t confirm when the technology will be implemented, Chudzik said.
The technology works with a “search engine that investigators can use to match spent shell casings collected at local crime scenes with finely detailed images of casings from other jurisdictions,” according to a press release from the city.
The equipment would report matches in a matter of hours, which would help solve gun crimes faster and potentially prevent future gun violence.
Gainesville City Commissioner Bryan Eastman said one reason he voted in favor of the purchase is the importance of solving gun crimes to “give victims some sense of justice.”
Gainesville resident Misael Ortiz, 37, said he had doubts about the effectiveness of the technology in solving cases. He argued that even if the equipment finds a match, it wouldn't mean that the same person fired the gun on both occasions. Ortiz said he would prefer if the city invested in community programs for children instead of purchasing the new technology.
The police department would allow other agencies to use the technology if they request it, Chudzik said. For example, the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office does not have this type of technology, said Art Forgey, public information officer of the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office. Chudzik added that this technology works better the more data the search engine has to work with, so collaboration is encouraged.
From 2018 to 2022, there were 544 reported shootings in Gainesville, according to police records. That's around nine shootings per month during that period. The police department believes that around 150 of the shootings were connected to criminal gangs.
In the cases reported, 169 people were injured, and one died by suicide.
“One loss of life is too much,” Chudzik said. “One injury from gun violence is too much. But if we can prevent that by using this technology now, and it prevents it in the future -- for us that’s huge.”