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Cracking down on gunshots

Top Los Angeles law enforcement officials and leaders told residents Monday not to fire any weapons to celebrate the new year, warning revelers that they will make every effort to track down shooters.

The appeal for safety has become an annual tradition.

“We do this every year,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said at a news conference in Lynwood attended by Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton and County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. In Orange County today, a similar plea is planned by police and sheriff’s officials.

At the Monday event, a flier in English and Spanish with pictures of young children was distributed.

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“Love Them, Don’t Shoot Them,” it read, though officials said they did not know if any of the children had been victims of gun violence.

“What goes up must come down, and what comes down does so with unpleasant circumstances,” Baca said in the Lynwood sheriff’s station. “Firing your gun into the air is a felony, and we will prosecute any individuals who fire their gun illegally to the fullest extent of the law.”

The news conference took place immediately before Baca, Bratton and Ridley-Thomas left for the funeral of Adriana Pizarro.

Pizarro, a Sheriff’s Department records clerk, was killed Dec. 20 when she was caught in gunfire near her home in South Los Angeles. Pizarro, 34, worked at the Compton sheriff’s station and was described by police investigating the incident as an innocent bystander. Alexander Castro, 23, was also killed in the shooting.

“Mrs. Pizarro died because of a gang shooting out on her street,” Baca said. “She didn’t have to die, and this is the kind of senseless violence we are working to stop however we can.”

Sheriff’s officials used the news conference as an opportunity to demonstrate their gunshot locator system, which has been in use since 1999. The ShotSpotter system uses noise sensors and microphones embedded in public places, such as the sides of buildings, to determine where shots are fired, ShotSpotter spokesman Michael Ries said.

Using satellite technology, the system narrows down the gunshot’s location to within 10 feet, he said.

“It picks up pretty much everything that goes bang, pop or boom,” Ries said. “ShotSpotter only records sound when the sensors go off, and they only go off when a gun is fired -- or something that sounds like gunfire, at least.”

ShotSpotter sensors and microphones are installed in areas of the City of Industry and Lynwood that total two square miles, Baca said. The system costs nearly $200,000 per square mile.

On Sunday night the system alerted deputies to shots fired in a Lynwood neighborhood, Baca said.

“No one called 911, no one called emergency,” Baca said. “We went to the scene and found a victim, and he was taken to the hospital in critical condition. That man very well could be dead, left bleeding in the street, if it wasn’t for this system.”

Deputies found a 26-year-old man with multiple gunshot wounds who was trying to drive himself to the hospital, Baca said. Also in the car were a 19-year-old woman and three children, ages 3, 1 and 1 month, who were not injured but did not have a cellphone to call for help, he said.

About two-thirds of the gunshot incidents detected by ShotSpotter are never called in to 911, Ries said.

The Los Angeles Police Department does not use ShotSpotter because it has not found the financing to purchase it, Bratton said.

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nathan.olivarezgiles@ latimes.com


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