ATTLEBORO — Mayor Paul Heroux announced Wednesday he aims to spend $450,000 on something he hopes is never activated — a gunshot detection system for city schools.
To fund the project, the mayor said he will use money garnered from a community host agreement with the first marijuana company to open in Attleboro, Nova Farms. Last month, it cut a check to the city for $585,000.
“This is a purchase and investment in school safety I have wanted to do for two to three years,” Heroux said in a news release. “Improving public safety with legal marijuana industry money will be the primary use of these new revenues.”
The host agreement runs for five years and provides the city with 3 percent of the business’s gross revenues per year.
The $450,000 would pay for gunshot detection systems in all nine of the city’s schools.
Heroux said no decision has been made on what the rest of the cash will be used for.
The city will also eventually reap a 3 percent sales tax charged on all marijuana purchases and that revenue stream is not limited. It will be used to pay for recurring expenses.
The city council must still approve the expenditure.
In explaining the proposal, Heroux said school shootings have become a greater danger than school fires.
An internet search confirms the list is long and the loss of life is tragic.
School-related shootings have occurred throughout the nation’s history, but the more deadly ones seemed to have come more recently, perhaps starting on April 20, 1999 at Columbine High School in Colorado. That’s when two students killed 12 fellow students, one teacher and injured 26 others.
It was an attack that shocked the nation, but so have others, such as the massacre of 20 first graders and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. on Dec. 14, 2012.
And there was also the murder of 17 students and teachers and the wounding of 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018 in Parkland, Fla.
Those are just a few of the most deadly attacks, but Heroux said that despite their frequency and tragic toll, “schools are not required to have a gunshot detection system like we have a fire detection system.”
Gunshot detection systems use technology that registers the unique acoustics and flash of a gunshot and instantly alerts the police department, the mayor said.
The first moments of a shooting are the most critical and sometimes the most confusing, he said.
In some instances it takes time for school officials to figure out what’s going on and contact police, and during that time many people can be killed or badly wounded.
A gunshot detection system immediately contacts police when a shot is fired and that can save lives, the mayor said.
“Minutes matter when an active shooter is ravaging carnage in a school,” Heroux said in his news release. “Too often during the first five or 10 minutes of an active shooter there is confusion and the police are not notified of the active shooter. A detection system will alert the police immediately reducing response time and saving lives.”
The mayor said money garnered from the Community Host Agreement can only be used for one-time expenses because it will end after five years. This year the gunshot detection system is what he wants.
In the future, recurring revenue from the 3 percent sales tax raised from what will likely be multiple marijuana businesses in the city will be used to upgrade the police department, Heroux said.
Those upgrades include the annual purchase of three new hybrid cruisers and the addition of a traffic enforcement unit.