New Tech Lets Police Pinpoint Gunfire with A Network of Mics

New Tech Lets Police Pinpoint Gunfire with A Network of Mics

While many communities across the nation deal with gang violence and gun crime on a routine basis, one Silicon Valley tech company has teamed up with law enforcement agencies all over the country to help them respond to criminal shooting incidents in a timely manner.

The New York Post reported on a relatively new technology being used by a number of police departments that helps them rapidly identify and locate gunfire via system of audio sensors placed throughout the city.

The technology was developed and marketed by a company called ShotSpotter, and it uses a network of microphones and sensors typically mounted on rooftops or utility poles to detect and record the sound of gunshots, immediately triangulating the position of the gunfire and notifying the police, often before people can call 911 to report the gunshots themselves.

The technology is said to be so good that it can specify exactly how many rounds were fired in a particular incident, how many different guns were used, and even determine whether those shots came from a handgun, shotgun or rifle, all important information for a responding officer to have on hand before arriving on the scene.

However, the highly-touted 20-year-old technology has not necessarily proven itself to be the gun-crime-reducing panacea it was thought to be, according to Forbes.

Though the gunfire-detecting sensors have been installed in some 90 different communities across the country and those police departments are being alerted to more gunshots than they would otherwise be if only relying on 911 calls from concerned citizens and victims, there hasn’t really been a corresponding increase in arrests or a decrease in shots fired.

Indeed, a study of the data produced and police records from about two dozen of the participating communities revealed that even armed with the extra information, police still failed to locate the shooter or even find evidence of the shooting, such as spent casings, between 30 and 70 percent of the time.

In fact, some police departments have begun backing away from using the technology, typically citing the high cost to maintain the system versus the negligible increase in arrests or reduction in gun crime.

Furthermore, though the company insists that its system of microphones only listens for gunfire, some privacy advocates worry that it could be adapted to listen in on and record people’s private conversations in a rather Orwellian, Big Brother-ish fashion.

This technology certainly could be utilized to do great good in communities across the country, but the system also seems ripe to be adapted and abused by those with power, something advocates of liberty and limited government should keep a close eye on.

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