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Gunshot Tracking Cameras to be Deployed in LA 480

Posted by samzenpus
from the mixed-senses dept.
apok04 writes "Get out your tinfoil hats (and ski masks). A USC engineer uses his expertise with nerve cells to create a surveillance system that can recognize the sound of a nearby gunshot - and identify the shooter. In a unique pilot program, L.A. and Chicago will deploy test units in high-crime areas. The creator emphasizes that the system cannot recognize voices or words, but his previous research into speech recognition systems suggests otherwise."
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Gunshot Tracking Cameras to be Deployed in LA

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  • Seems a great idea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Maqueo (766442) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @08:12PM (#10969132)
    Get out your tinfoil hats

    Why?

    Doesn't seem like a bad idea to know who's shooting who - don't you think?
  • Good or bad? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by joemc91 (757436) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @08:16PM (#10969171) Homepage
    I don't really know if this is a good or bad thing. I like the idea of having people caught quickly but at the same time I feel that law enforcement agencies would quickly find a way to constantly monitor the cameras, cutting into our privacy even more. Since these cameras are in public it doesn't bother me as much.

    Over all I think it's a good idea but it will be exploited so I can't support it fully, even though I'd like to.
  • Stupid idea. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @08:17PM (#10969194)
    This can accurately determine where a gun shot was fired, which is useful, I suppose. But, in the article it states that a camera is used to identify and track the culprit. In order to deter gun related crime properly, there'd have to be cameras EVERYWHERE.

    *puts on tinfoil hat*
    Big Brother is watching!
  • Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Otter (3800) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @08:26PM (#10969299) Journal
    The creator emphasizes that the system cannot recognize voices or words, but his previous research into speech recognition systems suggests otherwise.

    Uh, no, it doesn't. The fact that the guy has worked on different types of signal processing doesn't "suggest" that he builds those capacities into every project he touches.

  • Multiple sources (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kmahan (80459) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @08:32PM (#10969360)
    So how does it deal with multiple gunshots coming from different shooters? (i.e., gunfight)

    I can see that camera jumping back and forth trying to catch each shot.
  • by DAldredge (2353) <SlashdotEmail@GMail.Com> on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @08:38PM (#10969416) Journal
    Just ban the guns and the problem will go away!!!

    !!!
  • by That's Unpossible! (722232) * on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @08:39PM (#10969428)
    Because when government spies on innocent people...

    These people are in public areas, presumably. No spying would be involved.

    it adopts the principle of guilty before proven innocent

    I could see this case if (1) they were actually 'spying' and (2) if it was humans doing it rather than a computer system defined specifically to look for ILLEGAL ACTIONS, and the system has proven to be ACCURATE.

    It is illegal to fire a weapon in the city. I don't see a problem with a system designed to report a fired weapon, record video of the person firing it, and calling for help.

    Protecting citizens from violence is one of the very few jobs the federal government is actually SUPPOSED to be doing, according to the Constitution.

    Under a just system of law, individuals are innocent until proven guilty.

    I wasn't aware that this system was finding anyone guilty? That is still done in a court of law.
  • by Abcd1234 (188840) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @08:43PM (#10969469) Homepage
    Because when government spies on innocent people

    Who said anything about spying? This system is well known and out in the open. By this logic, photo radar and red-light cameras should be banned, because they "spy" on driver behaviours.

    Now, if the government was secretly monitoring specific people it felt were "dangerous", but haven't yet committed a crime, I'd have a problem. But this system most certainly doesn't fit that definition.

    it adopts the principle of guilty before proven innocent.

    Oooh, pulling out the strawman... nice...

    This principle is immoral, corrupt, unjust, and backwards.

    And there you go, knocking it down. Well done, but you failed to actually make a point.

    Under a just system of law, individuals are innocent until proven guilty.

    Very true. Of course, the idea that this system deviates from that principle is a matter of opinion rather than fact.
  • a wrong direction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fizban (58094) <fizban@umich.edu> on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @08:50PM (#10969523) Homepage
    In a unique pilot program, L.A. and Chicago will deploy test units in high-crime areas.

    Hmmm... Let me guess, the south side of Chicago and Compton?

    Rather than looking for pro-active solutions to lowering crime in lower-income neighborhoods, like good education systems, quality health-care, living wages, etc. we continue to see crazy-ass reactive schemes like the above camera system that don't do anything to solve the real problems. In the meantime, as these useless systems become the norm, our society moves closer and closer to the ultimate police heaven, where everyone is monitored every second of every day. When's it gonna end?

    Hey, golly-gee-whiz, it sure is a neat technology, Wally.

    But like most things of that sort, no one's actually thought about how it actually makes things better, or how it can make things worse. So you catch a few people shooting guns, so what? They end up in jail, their families get torn apart, their chances of actually becoming a productive part of society diminish and they end up back on the street shooting a gun again, which is caught on camera, etc. etc. etc. Wow, crime sure is decreasing now.

    It's nice to talk about being tough on crime, but oftentimes what's really needed is not the cracking of a whip, or the monitoring of a camera, but rather a signature on a diploma, or on a paycheck. If you start suspecting everyone as a criminal, then they start seeing themselves as criminals and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you first look at people as raw material that can be shaped and molded into something productive, well, you see what I'm getting at.

    I'm getting sick of reading about high-tech crime monitoring systems, but it's appearing to be inevitable that we will live with them in our daily lives now and in the near future, so let me practice my indoctrination recitation:

    "I for one, welcome our all-seeing camera overlords."
  • Re:Response Time (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:06PM (#10969676) Homepage
    If the shooter is still there, she deserves to be caught.

    If the shooter is a criminal, she deserves to be caught whether she's still there or whether she ran away and hid.
  • by mOoZik (698544) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:06PM (#10969681) Homepage
    When you use a gun to kill a person, that is illegal. Given that you're willing to kill or injure another human being, I'm pretty sure the fact that silencers are illegal does not impose.

  • by G-funk (22712) <josh@gfunk007.com> on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:11PM (#10969732) Homepage Journal
    And incredibly easy and cheap to make, if you only need a few shots.
  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:15PM (#10969779) Homepage
    These people are in public areas, presumably. No spying would be involved.

    Okay, what do you call surreptitiously observing peoples activities, then? Video taping an unaware couple making out in a park isn't spying? Yes, it is a public place and therefore I could be being watched at any time. That does not mean it is acceptable to me to actually be watched all the time. If you disagree, then why don't you just stick a transmitter on yourself whenever you leave the house so the government can track you at all times -- but only when you're in public! That makes it okay!

    a computer system defined specifically to look for ILLEGAL ACTIONS, and the system has proven to be ACCURATE.

    And what is this system doing for all the time that there aren't any gunshots going off? The "system" may be for detecting gun shots, but it's still a moveable camera and a microphone. So they blanket a few neighborhoods with these -- are the LAPD going to be happy with just passively waiting for the system to identify gunshots, or are they going to want to expand what they can do with their new camera/microphone network? Hint: Only one answer is consistent with the history of law enforcement.

    In the article, you should postpend every statement on what the system doesn't do with "... yet." Tracking limited amounts of speech, certain "alarm signal" words, wouldn't be a huge addition to the system and with microphones everywhere... think an Echelon or Carnivore for meatspace. But now that I think about it, my emails and phone calls travel on wires over public property, so I guess it's no big deal if the government listens in on that either.
  • by MAdMaxOr (834679) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:29PM (#10969942)
    A buddy of mine and I did this in a physics lab. We used an array of 5 condenser mics wired into a PC running LabView, wired out to a laser pointer mounted on some toy motors.

    Someone would clap 15-30 feet away, and the computer pointed the laser pointer at their hands. We got the position within a foot or so, even in a echoing cinder block room.

    Insights:
    - You need at least 4 mics to get an object's position. (There are 4 degrees of freedom, x, y, z, and time) If you only need the angle, then you need 3 (for time, theta, and phi).

    - There are some places to shoot where due to the symmetries, it would be hard to compute a position. If the mics are arranged in a plane, then one problem area is straight out from the mic, normal to the plane.

    - Another project group in my class developed a computer-controlled ball bearing cannon. I wish we had time to link the projects.

    - Thermal variation in the air can disrupt your results.

    - If you used well-tuned directional mics, you might be better off. Rather than compute the location based on the path-length of the sound to each mic, you could then find out the incident angle of the sound on each mic, based upon how much the sound level is reduced.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:32PM (#10969966)
    Rather than looking for pro-active solutions to lowering crime in lower-income neighborhoods, like good education systems, quality health-care, living wages, etc. we continue to see crazy-ass reactive schemes like the above camera system that don't do anything to solve the real problems.

    Maybe if the stop shooting each other and get the hell home to do their homework, maybe they can get a job with living wages, health care, etc, and maybe their neighborhoods wouldn't be such hellholes.

    Just what is a living wage in Compton, anyway? And if they can't get a decent education in Compton/Chicago, etc, get out! Nobody is "trapped" in a ghetto.

    So you catch a few people shooting guns, so what? They end up in jail

    And where do you suggest we put people who shoot off guns on city streets?

    their families get torn apart

    If you are running around shooting off guns in a ghetto at night, your family is ALREADY torn apart. People with healthy families don't do that crap. Do you think the shooter should be left free to put his gun back in his pocket and go home to take care of Junior?

    If you start suspecting everyone as a criminal

    Innocent until proven guilty, true, but if you are photographed shooting a gun, you should be locked up awaiting trial.

    then they start seeing themselves as criminals
    Dude - they ALREADY see themselves as criminals - have you listened to the music lately?

    Now, my uncharacteristic neo-conservative rant aside, I'm still generally against public cameras and monitoring.
  • by jadavis (473492) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:44PM (#10970055)
    Protecting citizens from violence is one of the very few jobs the federal government is actually SUPPOSED to be doing, according to the Constitution.

    Perhaps you can point out the passage, I haven't found it yet.

    I always thought that was a responsibility of the state. In this case it should be O.K. since the city is the one setting it up and the state prosecutes.

    How did this become a federal issue?
  • Re:Response Time (Score:3, Insightful)

    by magefile (776388) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:47PM (#10970080)
    I see two benefits: it'll help get medical care to people who've been shot, and it'll be at least something to start with when the cops go after the shooter. Often times in neighborhoods like this, cops know who the likely criminals are; they just need to narrow it down some.
  • BZZT! Wrong. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Behrooz (302401) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:53PM (#10970128)
    And if you're doing nothing illegal, the police and/or government won't care either, and they'll keep on listening for others.

    Unfortunately, the police and/or government are also responsible for defining which activities are illegal, and are increasingly oriented toward keeping their own actions secret [msn.com] in the name of 'security'. There is quite literally no public accountability for much of the security apparatus closing into place right before our eyes, and when even a congresswoman is unable to obtain the federal regulations authorizing someone to search them, something is really fucking wrong.

    Additionally, individual members of the police and/or government are uniquely vulnerable to corruption, hiding their betrayal behind the shield of 'security' and 'need to know'.

    The tired old 'Law-abiding people have nothing to hide' argument needs to roll over and die already. The only workable safeguard against government hypersurveillance is ensuring that the system is constructed in a completely transparent and publicly-accountable [davidbrin.com] manner.
  • by pair-a-noyd (594371) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:54PM (#10970147)
    Machine sounds are the only ones in SENTRI's vocabulary. It cannot eavesdrop on conversations, the scientist emphasized.

    Bullshit...

  • by Behrooz (302401) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:58PM (#10970177)
    Innocent people are still vulnerable to harassment, intimidation, and coercion from agents acting on behalf of the government.

    When the watchers are the only ones with access to the results of a given surveillance technology, nobody can watch the watchers to see whether they're abusing it.
  • by stak (3074) on Thursday December 02, 2004 @01:00AM (#10971483)
    On NPR this morning in Chicago they reported that this cameras will work on guns with silencers too. They didn't elaborate, but they did say it.
  • by bluGill (862) on Thursday December 02, 2004 @01:09AM (#10971540)

    There are those who are poor, but doing the best they can, trying to create a better life. Then there are those who see nothing wrong with shooting other people. The latter is more likely to be poor, but includes all classes. (drugs are often involved, but they don't have to be)

    The first group is who we should help. They are best helped by allowing them to live their life in peace. Allowing their children to get an education. Allowing them to walk to work safely. While their schools might not be as good as what the rich go to, they are good enough that you can get into Ivy League schools if you study hard, a requirement even the rich kids have to meet. (scholarships mean that you can pay for it)

  • by loraksus (171574) on Thursday December 02, 2004 @01:11AM (#10971557) Homepage
    Okay, what do you call surreptitiously observing peoples activities, then? Video taping an unaware couple making out in a park isn't spying? Yes, it is a public place and therefore I could be being watched at any time. That does not mean it is acceptable to me to actually be watched all the time

    Aceeptable to you? Perhaps not. Legal? Certainly.
    3 cheers for senile judges.
  • Re:Response Time (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Twirlip of the Mists (615030) <twirlipofthemists@yahoo.com> on Thursday December 02, 2004 @01:48AM (#10971750)
    If the shooter is still there, she deserves to be caught.

    She? What planet do you live on where women commit gun crimes?
  • by Twirlip of the Mists (615030) <twirlipofthemists@yahoo.com> on Thursday December 02, 2004 @02:15AM (#10971877)
    "Trapped by poverty?" Are you out of your goddamn mind? The way we define poverty, 74% of "poor" households own a VCR [techcentralstation.com]! And 64% pay for cable or satellite TV every month. One in four poor households includes a cell phone, and that stat is from 2001; I promise you the figures have climbed dramatically since then.

    You talk about "poverty" like it's the brink of death. Poor people in America are growing fat. LITERALLY! They're overweight! They've got access to more calories per day than a person needs to consume in a week to stay healthy. And they've got color TVs and DVD players and Xboxes.

    Want to get out of poverty? Stop throwing your money away on entertainment and excess! Save. Go to night school at one of America's one thousand community colleges. Get a degree. All it takes is a little money and an investment of time. Then comes a better job, more money, the opportunity to move to a better neighborhood, and then you can start spending on luxuries like cable TV and video games.

    That's how life is, folks. The fact that that's how it is isn't something we need to struggle against. If we, as a society, are failing in any way at all, it's that the elites continue to sit around and make excuses rather than telling poor people that it's time to get off their asses, start managing their money --money which would be a king's ransom in any one of a hundred and fifty countries on this planet --and improving their own lives instead of just waiting for the next government handout.
  • by Abcd1234 (188840) on Thursday December 02, 2004 @02:37AM (#10971964) Homepage

    Actually, I think what the original poster was trying to say is that once a system like that is in place, its uses may "vary" a little from its intital "sold to the public as" message.


    Which is, of course, why you have public oversight of these things. It's not like the cops work under a cloak of secrecy... their actions are there to be scrutinized, and should be.

    They already said that the designer of this device has worked on speech detection devices as well.

    So? As many others have pointed out, this is a completely pointless observation.

    BTW, this is, of course, the point where you lost all credibility.

    The American people should be up in arms over systems like this, and the red light and speed cameras as well. It encourages abuse of the system and promotes lazy and dishonest law enforcement.

    Can you cite a single example of "abuse" of red light cameras or photo radar? And, no, the fines don't count. I've *never* heard of those devices used for any purpose other than what they were designed and marketed for... to catch red-light runners/speeders so they can be fined (I happen to believe they don't actually *deter* anything, but that's a separate issue).

    And do we need an example of dishonest and lazy law enforcement:

    Well, assuming I bought the idea that these cameras would suddenly generate lazier, heartless cops, I'm sure your, admittedly very terrible story, would be quite moving and convincing. However, since I don't buy that argument, it just looks like a cheap attempt to play at my emotions. So, please, don't insult my intelligence.

    Nice... This is the same government that wants to increase its revenue with speed and red-light cameras,

    That I will agree with, unfortunately. Of course, considering this system isn't being put into place to increase revenue (since no fines will be generated, as far as I know), the comparison isn't a very good one.

    and prevent you from defending yourself with firearms.

    And that is clearly an inflammatory comment that is a matter of opinion (eg, my opinion is firearms in the home cause more harm than good. But I think we can agree to disagree on that one).

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