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Thread: 'Police Put a High-Tech Ear to the Ground' When Seconds Count, Cops Only Minutes Away

  1. #1
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    Jun 2006
    Washington Island, across Death's Door, Wisconsin, USA

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    Microphone Network Detects, Pinpoints Location of Gunshots, Cutting Officer Response Time By BOBBY WHITE
    Oakland, Calif.
    Police departments in cities nationwide are enlisting a new system of high-tech microphones to help fight urban crime.

    Through a network of toaster-sized microphones fastened to rooftops and telephone poles, police are able to detect the crack of gunshots and pinpoint the sound's origin to within 80 feet. The system then displays the location of the shots on a computer map, alerting police within 15 seconds.

    The system proved its use in Oakland on a night in early March when it notified police of gunshots in a nearby neighborhood, allowing officers to arrive at the scene within two minutes and arrest a wounded man wielding a handgun with spent shell casings.

    ShotSpotter Inc., the company behind the microphone system, was founded in 1994 by Robert Showen, a former physics professor at the University of California at Berkeley who adapted sensors and software designed to locate earthquakes.

    The system came into the spotlight in 2003 when federal agents used ShotSpotter to help capture a sniper who had terrorized a stretch of highway in Columbus, Ohio, causing one death. The sniper later pleaded guilty to 11 felony counts, including involuntary manslaughter. ShotSpotter, which had only three cities using its system at the time, soon added Chicago, Minneapolis, Washington and Oakland as customers.

    The Mountain View, Calif., company says it has seen an uptick in demand as crime rates have risen in various U.S. cities. It expanded ShotSpotter to 29 cities from 21 last year and expects that to nearly double to 50 by the end of 2008. The closely held company declined to divulge sales figures or say whether it is profitable. There are some other shot-detection systems on the market, such as the Sentri (Sensor Enabled Neural Threat Recognition and Identification) by Safety Dynamics Inc.

    For Oakland, the technology is part of a broad effort to improve public safety. The city, with about 400,000 residents, has a higher crime rate than most similar-sized U.S. cities, according to a 2008 Oakland police report. Oakland reported 3,534 robberies in 2006, 40% more than in Miami, a city of about the same population, according to the report.

    After Oakland's homicide rate shot up nearly 70% from 2005 to 2006, reaching 148 murders, city leaders began looking for new methods to solve the problem. The city tapped ShotSpotter along with a host of other technologies, including electronic license-plate readers and surveillance cameras.

    In October 2006, Oakland spent $388,000 to deploy a ShotSpotter network of 84 microphones around violent sections of the city and set up computer monitors in its central command center for dispatchers to monitor alerts. In its first year, the system detected nearly 3,000 gunshots, overwhelming city dispatchers. To counter the deluge, the police department worked with ShotSpotter to develop a mobile system through which officers would monitor alerts through laptops in patrol cars.

    ShotSpotter assists in forensic investigations by getting officers quickly to a crime scene while evidence is still fresh. It also keeps recordings of the gunshots, so police have a record of exactly when and where they happened. "This is a very effective tool that has either directly resolved a case or played a significant part in closing a case," says David Kozicki, Oakland's deputy police chief.

    ShotSpotter has proven more effective in some cities than in others. In North Charleston, S.C., for example, city officials say it helped to reduce the number of violent crimes in some of the more-dangerous neighborhoods by 35% in 2004. [ShotSpotter was installed and subsequently crime may have fallen but there are virtually no news reports directly crediting ShotSpotter.]

    But some larger cities have faced more limitations. Some Oakland lawmakers say that ShotSpotter has resulted in fewer than a dozen arrests since it was installed. The problem, they say, is that police don't dedicate enough resources to follow up on the shooting calls. "This technology works and there's proof that it works, but you have to dedicate resources to make it work," says Larry Reid, a member of the Oakland City Council.

    Mr. Kozicki responds that the officers are working hard to better use the system but adds that the police force is understaffed, which has hampered efforts. "We are doing as much as we can with what we have but there are limits," says Mr. Kozicki.
    The problems Oakland faces may be common among major cities across the U.S. which are similarly short staffed and strapped for cash, making them ill-equipped to handle a host of new technologies being deployed, says Jennifer King, a researcher at the Samuelson aw, Technology and Public Policy Clinic at UC Berkeley's Boalt School of Law.

    "ShotSpotter, like other law-enforcement technology out there, is predicated on the idea that there's a coordinated approach to fighting crime," says Ms. King. "City lawmakers, community leaders and the police need to work together to make it work."

    Either we are equal or we are not. Good people ought to be armed where they will, with wits and guns and the truth. NRA *******

  2. #2
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    Apr 2008
    Carson City, Nevada, USA

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    Oakland has places where the cops don't go unless they are there in force. Further, these mics are toaster size, so I wonder how long it will be before the BG's figure out that they make good targets!?

  3. #3
    Regular Member sccrref's Avatar
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    May 2007
    Virginia Beach, VA, , USA

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    Loneviking wrote:
    Oakland has places where the cops don't go unless they are there in force. Further, these mics are toaster size, so I wonder how long it will be before the BG's figure out that they make good targets!?
    That's why there were over 3000 shots fired.

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