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Sound of Shots Fired “As a somewhat recent transplant, wondering what the protocol is (or what people think it should be)?”

by Prince Of Petworth January 13, 2016 at 2:05 pm 42 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user Rich Renomeron

Shots Fired in AdMo?

“Wondering if anyone else heard the shots fired around 3:30 this morning [Tuesday] in the Adams Morgan area? We’re on Adams Mill Road, and they were close enough to wake us up. Curious as to what the proper response is-the last time we heard shots close to us we called 911 to report it, but the dispatcher seemed genuinely confused why we would call if we couldn’t see anything or know exactly where it was coming from. As a somewhat recent transplant, wondering what the protocol is (or what people think it should be).”

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  • Anon

    Moving every time you think you hear gunshots is going to become very inconvenient and expensive very quickly.

    • womp

      i think there is an error in this post. i think some text may have gotten mixed up with a post from earlier today.

      • Anonomnom

        Agreed. It looks like the last line of text was included on accident. I was going to chime in that Adams Mill Road would actually be one of the streets in the city where you’d have a pretty low chance of hearing gun shots, so don’t move! haha

      • Yes sorry about that!!

  • madmonk28

    Call it in, leave it to the dispatcher to decide what to do with it. That way if you hear in the morning something awful happened, at least you know you did what you were supposed to.

  • textdoc

    Call 911. Sorry to hear the dispatcher you were connected with was semi-incompetent; maybe you’ll get a better one next time.

    • textdoc

      And if you run into this more than once, complain to the commander for your police district — in your case, the Third District.
      D.C. police aren’t in charge of the Office of Unified Communications (the office that handles 911 calls), but the police commanders tend to be responsive to complaints and are at a sufficiently high level to relay the concern to OUC.

      • MRD

        That’s good to know. I was seriously pissed off by the attitude of a dispatcher when I called 911 a couple of months ago.

    • 20th street

      “better one next time”– oh how we get so used to gunshots in DC. But you are 100% correct, there is a high probability that there will in fact be a next time.

  • Rusty

    I heard them as well! I couldn’t tell which direction they came from, but thought it sounded like Adams Mill Rd area. I kept listening for the police, but didn’t hear them. Getting scary out there!!

  • Anon

    I thought DC had pretty good gunshot recognition and location triangulation sensors across the city. I’ll look that up to confirm. But a call would not add any value onto that, right?

    • madmonk28

      I don’t know about DC, but in a lot of cities shot tracker doesn’t cover every area; instead it covers targeted neighborhoods.

    • Ward One Resident

      Shotspotter is what it’s called. It can tell the difference between actual gunfire and other noises/fireworks/etc. There are many of them around the city, but I’m not sure if there is one that covers this area in question (Adams Mill Rd., NW).

      • Dan

        This is correct – I’m a criminal defense attorney, and have learned a lot about Shotspotter from my cases. Shotspotter can tell the difference between a gun and, say, fireworks, or a car backfiring. It can also triangulate the location of the shot to within a few feet. If a shot is fired anywhere near one of these Shotspotter devices, it immediately sends a notice to the local police precinct. So if you think you heard a shot, but don’t have anything else to add, you don’t need to call into 911 because they already know a shot was fired. Of course if you have more information (say, you see people running away, see a gun, etc etc) the police always appreciate that. As for locations where Shotspotter is used – it doesn’t cover 100% of the city, but I would be SHOCKED if it didn’t cover all of Adams Morgan.

        • annaw

          Something to note about Shotspotter that I learned from a PSA meeting this time last year – they are affected by cold. So, if it is icy out, the ice can build up on the equipment and make it less accurate/ineffective. Also, as of last year, I maybe covered a quarter of the city, if that (they may have made improvements). So, when in doubt, report it.

        • jonah

          I would be very cautious suggesting people not call in sounds of gun shots because it is likely covered by shotspotter. There is no harm in calling it in, only an upside if Shotspotter is not performing as expected, or that it doesn’t cover an area. If someone doesn’t call and there were gun shots MPD can’t do anything to investigate. If you do call and it has already been called in 911 is suppose to be set up to handle call volume.

          • textdoc


        • Eric

          This could not be more incorrect. If you hear gunshots, call 911 to report. Full stop.

          • dat

            Yes, this.

  • zanduga

    This isn’t a transplant issue and I think it strange that you would think it was. What did you expect the dispatcher to do? Go door to door to find out if someone was shot or were watching TV too loudly. When I go on vacation in the woods, I get freaked out by loud noises that sound like shots. I can imagine the reaction a dispatcher would have if I called saying I heard shots.

    • oh2dc

      Maybe the dispatcher could send a squad car to the area to check and see if anything is amiss?

    • textdoc

      Wow, way to be dismissive. The problem here is the dispatcher, not the OP. Yes, the dispatcher is supposed to ask if the caller can tell approximately what area the sounds came from. But if the caller can’t, then the dispatcher should ask for the caller’s address and dispatch the police to that general area to check it out.

    • Tim

      “What did you expect the dispatcher to do?” Um…..dispatch?

  • MtPResident

    We also live on Adams Mill Road. My boyfriend thought I was crazy on Tuesday morning when I asked if he had heard the gun shots at 3:30am. I told him it freaked me out and he dismissed it as a car backfiring. I thought about calling 911 but after 10 minutes had passed and I didn’t hear any sirens I decided it was probably nothing. Sorry to hear about your bad experience with the dispatcher. In the past I’ve always found Twitter to be a great resources to complain to DC officials as I’ve always received a speedy response.

    • eva

      In my experience they don’t typically come with sirens on for calls of gunshots, especially late at night. Partly for the surprise factor in hopes of actually finding someone involved and partly (my own conjecture) to not disturb sleeping people.

      When I have called 911 for gunshots I usually hear fast moving cars whizzing to the block within 90-120 seconds, as I live very near a police station. If I hear sirens I assume an ambulance and therefore a graver situation. If I don’t hear sirens I just roll over and assume no one was hit, or if they were they left the scene.

  • Dognonymous

    I had a similar response from a dispatcher when I called about hearing gunshots a few months back. She asked why I was calling if I didn’t see the shooter. I get that it’s late and you don’t want to be there, but damn. She finally took the report, but I think she was just expecting me to hang up.

  • Anon H St.

    IMO you should always call it in, don’t let a grumpy dispatcher convince you otherwise. I called 911 for what I thought was a gunshot recently and the dispatcher was not dismissive at all. I made my best guess about where it was coming from and the dispatcher said others had called as well and they were sending a unit to check it out. (Twitter later said fireworks)

  • K

    We live in a higher crime area and hear gun shots often. The scariest being 10-12 gunshots sounding about a block away as my kids and I were walking to the bus in the morning. We call every time we hear gun shots. Every time. No questions asked. On at least one occasion we’ve had cops come back to tell us they caught the people responsible. We just tell the dispatcher how many shots we heard and in what direction (N of our house, NE of our house, near the park, etc). Everyone has to make an effort to make the community safer. Calling to report shots will only help. Even if it just amounts to getting more police cars to cruise the area.

    • textdoc

      +1 to ” Everyone has to make an effort to make the community safer. Calling to report shots will only help. Even if it just amounts to getting more police cars to cruise the area.”

    • Jessica


  • Anon1

    Since you live on Adams Mill, I guess it depends on the type of gunfire you heard, but right now it is deer hunting season in Rock Creek Park? 3:30 AM seems to be a bit late for that, but it’s a possibility?

  • Call every time

    I call evey time I hear shots. Over time living in DC you’ll get better at knowing where the shots canme from, where the safest part of your house for taking cover is, and even the kind of gun used (quick tinny bursts = probably a lower caliber semi pistol, usually 9mm. Deeper sound with slightly longer pause = probably a .45 or something else with more recoil).

  • Shaw resident

    Calling 911 can be a frustrating experience in DC but KEEP CALLING to report any suspicious or criminal activity. Crime is rampant in DC right now. I also recommend getting to know your local MPD precinct and Council Member. Email them frequently with updates and concerns regarding crime in your neighborhood. As DC residents we must be relentless in bringing our concerns about crime to the attention of the MPD and politicians.

    • jonah

      Readers interested in getting to know your district commander or other officers in your Police Service Area (PSA) can start here: http://mpdc.dc.gov/page/police-districts-and-police-service-areas. Your PSA meetings are often lightly attended and offer a great chance to talk with your local officers about concerns or questions.

    • JohnH

      Yes, reporting crime is important. But your assertion that somehow it recently has become a problem is laughable. It’s always been “rampant” in DC.

  • DC_Chica

    Given that several people have gotten the same (inadequate) response from 911 in response to reporting gunshots, perhaps they all spoke to the same dispatcher? I’m rarely the type to take names and ask to speak to a manager, but in this case it’s a matter of public safety and it may simply be a matter of additional training being needed.

  • ANC

    I had a similar incident a few years back. I was pregnant and home alone and I thought I heard two gunshots outside in the alley behind my house. I called it in immediately, and the dispatcher asked if I had seen anything or had any other information to give. I did not, and I told her I wasn’t going to go stick my head out the back door to find out more. Within three minutes there were police cars with flood lights EVERYWHERE combing the street for shell casings. I don’t think they found anything, but thank goodness.

    Call it in, always. You don’t get any points for being “brave” or jaded about possible gun violence, and someone very well might need help.

  • heffieb

    Just a note on how things work at the Office of Unified Communications (OUC) so folks can understand the process there and use the language of those they are talking to if they decide to complain.

    When you call 911, the phone is answered by someone called a call taker. These folks ask you questions, classify the call, and enter the info in the computer system where it is immediately passed to a dispatcher and prioritized. What the call taker enters determines how the call will be handled. Some do a great job with this, classifying the call correctly and entering very specific descriptions of suspects and locations, while others enter minimal detail and sometimes miscategorize the call, leaving officers walking into a different scenario than they expected or not having full information. Dispatchers tend to be more skilled and experienced than call takers as they need to handle incoming and outgoing transmissions from many units on multiple calls as well as what is coming from the call takers. We have some phenomenal dispatchers in this city. They can’t give responding units information the call taker doesn’t give them though. The folks people in this thread have been unhappy with are call takers, not dispatchers.

    Two asides that aren’t totally in line with the thread but that may be helpful to people who aren’t used to calling 911.

    -Since the call type is entered fairly early in the process by the dispatcher, I suggest putting all of the super important details out there right up front so the call will get coded and prioritized correctly and units can be put enroute while you continue giving additional details. So “There is an armed man trying to kick in my back door. (Call goes to dispatch as armed robbery in progress or something like that.) He’s wearing…” rather than “There’s a guy in my back yard. (Call goes to dispatch as suspicious person.) He’s wearing jeans and a black coat and has a backpack. Oh, and he’s trying to kick in my door. And I think he has a gun.”

    – Don’t worry that you staying on the line talking to the call taker and providing additional info is keeping them from dispatching your call. It has gone out. Them asking you more questions may well mean that it is getting some priority or that the units that have been dispatched are asking questions. (Perhaps they had a similar call earlier or think they might know the suspect and are trying to verify that hunch.)

    • distritera

      Thanks, this is useful info!

  • Cassie

    Any time a 911 operator gives you grief, just keep on the line, and keep explaining what you’ve witnessed. And ask for a police response. You don’t have to be rude. Maybe firm. But definitely don’t take their “this isn’t worth reporting” as the truth.


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