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Crime Privacy United States

90 Cities Install A Covert Technology That Listens For Gunshots (businessinsider.com) 292

An anonymous reader quotes Business Insider: In more than 90 cities across the US, including New York, microphones placed strategically around high-crime areas pick up the sounds of gunfire and alert police to the shooting's location via dots on a city map... ShotSpotter also sends alerts to apps on cops' phones. "We've gone to the dot and found the casings 11 feet from where the dot was, according to the GPS coordinates," Capt. David Salazar of the Milwaukee Police Dept. told Business Insider. "So it's incredibly helpful. We've saved a lot of people's lives."

When three microphones pick up a gunshot, ShotSpotter figures out where the sound comes from. Human analysts in the Newark, California, headquarters confirm the noise came from a gun (not a firecracker or some other source). The police can then locate the gunshot on a map and investigate the scene. The whole process happens "much faster" than dialing 911, Salazar said, though he wouldn't disclose the exact time.

The company's CEO argues their technology deters crime by demonstrating to bad neighborhoods that police will respond quickly to gunshots. (Although last year Forbes discovered that in 30% to 70% of cases, "police found no evidence of a gunshot when they arrived.") And in a neighborhood where ShotSpotter is installed, one 60-year-old man is already complaining, "I don't like Big Brother being in all my business."
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90 Cities Install A Covert Technology That Listens For Gunshots

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  • High crime areas (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Sunday June 25, 2017 @12:40PM (#54687195)

    If you know which areas are high crime areas, why not locate the police precinct there?

    • by Hentes ( 2461350 )

      Because then the criminals would just move to a different area.

      • by Kohath ( 38547 )

        So move it there then.

        • Re:High crime areas (Score:5, Informative)

          by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Sunday June 25, 2017 @02:01PM (#54687587)
          It's probably less expensive to move a sensor that listens for gunshots than an entire police precinct. It also doesn't really matter where you locate the precinct either since the police can take their cars and patrol wherever they're most needed. You'd want to have your precincts located in such a way that it makes it easy and efficient for police to deploy anywhere in the city, otherwise if you locate them nearest the worst neighborhoods you'll probably not have a very even distribution as bad neighborhoods tend to be clustered.
    • by Phylter ( 816181 )
      In cities near me they've tried to do just that. Many of the residents aren't keen on it. The residents don't much trust police, being a mainly black community, probably due to the news in recent months about policy shootings.
      • by Kohath ( 38547 )

        Having strangers drive in from afar isn't better. Residents would start to trust police if police showed themselves to be trustworthy over time.

    • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Sunday June 25, 2017 @01:13PM (#54687371)
      is making sure the crime doesn't spill over from the poor neighborhoods to the rich ones. Crime 'fighting' is about containment. If you're old enough to remember the Rodney King riots you might also remember people asking why they just destroyed their own neighborhoods. The reason was the neighborhoods were surrounded by swat teams. The teams didn't move in and quell the riots, they just kept 'em in.
      • by Kohath ( 38547 )

        Along with locating in high crime areas, they'd also want to stop policing much of the "behavior" that's illegal but doesn't hurt anyone -- and actually "protect and serve" the community instead.

    • by Koby77 ( 992785 )
      There are relatively few police officers per person. Off-the-cuff searches indicate only 15 to 20 officers per 10,000 people. Some large cities employ more, in the 20 to 40 range, but keep in mind this number therefore needs to provide coverage 24/7, including holidays. That's 10 police officers per 8 hour shift, even in large cities, assuming that they work 356 days a year with no days off. Basically, they can't cover enough area with the available manpower, even if you narrow it down.
      • by Kohath ( 38547 )

        Ok, but 90+% (98% ?) of people don't need police at all.

        • by nnet ( 20306 )
          so they don't need a precinct moved. see?
        • Ok, but 90+% (98% ?) of people don't need police at all.

          Sure, even us 98%ers need them:

          They investigate accidents.
          They are first responders, providing aid until EMT/Fire arrives.
          They console the patient's family and often offer them rides behind the ambulance.
          They efficiently manage traffic after heavily attended events, such as fireworks.
          They drive through my neighborhood as I sleep making sure everything is "OK".
          They help find lost kids.
          They hang out at high school sports ensuring that the "2%" do not destroy the game for us 98%ers.
          They teach subjects

          • by Kohath ( 38547 )

            So station them in high crime areas and have them drive 20 minutes to direct traffic at the stadium or whatever other non-emergency thing you need.

    • by nnet ( 20306 )
      Why? Precincts don't patrol, cops do, in cars, on horseback, on bikes, on their feet.
  • by oic0 ( 1864384 ) on Sunday June 25, 2017 @12:42PM (#54687203)
    I'm not sure fan of big brother, but it's illegal to fire guns within most city limits and anyone doing so I doing something that needs police attention. This is one form of surveillance that seems unobtrusive and doesn't violate any form of privacy. That said, if they start listening with better microphones and storing data, that's a whole other ballgame.
    • by guises ( 2423402 ) on Sunday June 25, 2017 @01:03PM (#54687311)
      This is a case where proactive regulation is needed. We need a law upfront that says these are for real-time detection of gunshots only and should not be collecting any other data, or storing any data at all.

      This won't happen of course. We've been going through this with the Stingrays only recently - these will be unregulated until they're abused, then people will complain, then law enforcement will point out that they've already been using them for a while for all kinds of things with no complaints and that they have become an indispensable tool. Then it will be a long and slow fight to curtail their use, and it will never be curtailed down to the point where they're just detecting gunshots.
  • 20 years (Score:5, Informative)

    by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Sunday June 25, 2017 @12:50PM (#54687233) Homepage Journal
    ShotSpotter has had this for over 20 years in cities. In some tinfoil hat just learning about it?
  • by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Sunday June 25, 2017 @12:54PM (#54687257)

    San Francisco Bay Area police departments have been using this technology for years.

    ShotSpotter has been used for several years in six Bay Area cities. Police say ShotSpotter has helped them respond more quickly to crime scenes and capture suspects, and provide court evidence to solve homicide cases. Oakland police started using the gunshot detection technology in 2006; it now covers 80 percent of the city, said Capt. Ersie Joyner.

    http://www.mercurynews.com/2013/11/11/shotspotter-has-long-history-with-bay-area-police/ [mercurynews.com]

    • One of the companies I interviewed for fresh out of grad school in the 1990s was developing the same thing to help pinpoint snipers in Bosnia.
  • opposing article (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kqc7011 ( 525426 ) on Sunday June 25, 2017 @12:56PM (#54687281)
    • Seems mostly devoid of any criticism or useful information. All the article suggests is that the reason it's being covered a lot lately is because it's going public (selling shares.) It doesn't offer an opinion on the service or technology at all.
  • "Covert" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SeattleLawGuy ( 4561077 ) on Sunday June 25, 2017 @01:04PM (#54687315)

    Is it really a covert technology when it's publicized? I've heard about these installations for years. Even the Summary talks about an article last year in Forbes.

    This isn't secret surveillance, it's highly targeted mass surveillance--it only triggers on a very particular thing that involves a high degree of risk to the public. Save your big brother complaints for things like actual internet surveillance, overreaching electronic searches, or better yet for things like reform around the existing big-brother-esque things that cause massive damage to the economy every day. (E.g. bad uses of criminal records or credit reports)

  • Covert? Bullshit. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) * on Sunday June 25, 2017 @01:05PM (#54687323)

    Ooooo! "Covert"!!! Big Brother Bad!

    My guess is it's not "covert" if you follow city politics and the city council approval at public meetings necessary to buy and install this technology.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      And in a neighborhood where ShotSpotter is installed, one 60-year-old man is already complaining, "I don't like Big Brother being in all my business."

      What do you think the chances are this 60 year old man would be first in line to complain that big brother didn't "get in all his business" after he calls 911 to report someone breaking into his home, or stealing his car, or robbing him at gunpoint?

      • by nnet ( 20306 )
        how do you know his position is not based on wanting to shoot and kill the perps without facing any consequences? what made you think otherwise? I'm seriously interested to know what motivated your comment.
  • Works here (Score:5, Interesting)

    by christurkel ( 520220 ) on Sunday June 25, 2017 @01:13PM (#54687375) Homepage Journal
    When the City of Pittsfield installed these the amount of gun shootings went down noticibly. My neighborhood is quiet now. I am now very much pro ShotSpotter.
  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Sunday June 25, 2017 @01:17PM (#54687401)

    I've always liked the idea of sensors over a city to detect gunshots, but police still take some time to arrive to see what is going on.

    I think a big improvement on this would be a fleet of camera drones around the city that could be launched as soon as a gunshot was heard, so you could have a view of the scene in under 30 seconds anywhere in a city...

    It would also be really helpful for 911 calls so police could get a video of what was happening at the scene of a call even as they were en-route.

    • That would be useless against the kind of criminal that is most problematic right now, the kind that do not care if they get caught because they are on a suicidal mission.

      You can get a view of the scene if you like but that's not going to solve the problem. What's likely to solve the problem is people able to shoot back.

      Israel had a problem with school shootings until they decided to put armed men guarding the schools. The last "successful" (if you can call it that) school shooting that I could find when

      • That would be useless against the kind of criminal that is most problematic right now, the kind that do not care if they get caught because they are on a suicidal mission.

        It would be extremely useful for the kinds of attacks we have seen it cities, with a small number of attackers shooting civilians. You would have a drone in the area super quickly and it could follow any suspect(s) found, but even MORE importantly than that lets police know where attackers are NOT. Lots of people wait for medial care whi

      • by Jeremi ( 14640 )

        That would be useless against the kind of criminal that is most problematic right now, the kind that do not care if they get caught because they are on a suicidal mission.

        That is the kind of criminal that gets the most news coverage, but suicidal mass shooters are not the most problematic type of criminal right now, nor have they ever been.

        Around 33,000 people are shot to death each year in the USA.

        Out of those 33,000, less than 50 per year are killed as part of a Columbine/Aurora/SanBernardino style shooting spree.

        So you're imagining requirements that would apply to about one tenth of one percent of the actual gun homicides that occur. The media (or somebody) has distorted

  • Great (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Packet Pusher ( 231564 ) on Sunday June 25, 2017 @01:20PM (#54687419)

    As a gun lover, and privacy lover I can't see how this is a bad thing. Cities have gun regulations making it illegal to fire a firearm. If it is a justified self-defence act the person being attacked would like the police to come anyway. If it's an illegal firing then we want the police to respond.

    Make it so it's not possible to be used for any other use than dispatching armed officers/first responders even with a warrant or national security issue though without being put forward as vote by all of the voters. It's reasonable to allow surveillance uses of automated technology as long as the public interest and their privacy is protected.

    • As a gun lover, and privacy lover I can't see how this is a bad thing.

      The bad thing about it is that it is basically an admission of defeat in preventing people from shooting at each other in the first place. It solves the wrong problem. The problem that needs to be solved is how do we prevent the violence before it occurs rather than how do we catch offenders more quickly after the fact. Something like this makes sense in a war zone but if you need to install it during what is ostensibly peacetime then something is terribly wrong with public policy. Peaceful cities don't

  • It's in the fucking press, why on earth is this 'covert'?

    "(Although last year Forbes discovered that in 30% to 70% of cases, "police found no evidence of a gunshot when they arrived.")"

    The word you're looking for is a 'revolver' or a guy who isn't too lazy to pick up his casings.

  • "...We've saved a lot of people's lives."

    Sure..., after they were shot?

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