ShotSpotter System Spreading; Some Question Its Cost-Effectiveness


Nearly 70 cities use a gunshot detection system called ShotSpotter to pinpoint the location of gunfire seconds after it occurs, says the New York Times. The detection system, which triangulates sound picked up by acoustic sensors on buildings, utility poles, and other structures, is among technological advances that are transforming the way police officers do their jobs. Like other technologies, including license plate scanners, body cameras, and GPS trackers, the gunshot-detection system has inspired debate.

In New Bedford, Ma., where sensors recorded a loud street argument that accompanied a fatal shooting, the system has raised questions about privacy and the reach of police surveillance. With recession-plagued police departments cutting personnel and services, some cities have questioned the system's benefits relative to its cost. The Detroit City Council last year rejected the Police Department's proposal for a three-year, $2.6 million contract, with one council member objecting that not enough officers were available to respond to the alerts. Cities that installed ShotSpotter in the past bought the equipment and managed the alerts themselves, which could involve laying out hundreds of thousands of dollars. Many officials say the system has significantly improved response time for crimes involving firearms and has increased community confidence and helped deter gun crime.

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