The gunfire alert system ShotSpotter has become a basic component of police work in six San Francisco Bay Area cities that have bought it in recent years, says the San Francisco Chronicle. While offering mostly anecdotal evidence, and acknowledging some problems, police commanders say it’s been a success and is likely to be a permanent feature of their jobs. San Francisco is expanding its network from 4.3 to 9.3 square miles.
Proponents say the system enables officers to respond faster, often reaching the spot where shots were fired before the first 911 caller dials in. In many rough neighborhoods, officials said, the vast majority of gunfire prompts a ShotSpotter alert but no human calls. As he displayed a series of ShotSpotter alerts on his office computer, San Francisco police Commander Mikail Ali said the system also did something less tangible: convince people that police were on their side. “We used to miss a lot of these (gunfire) incidents,” Ali said. “People assumed we knew about them, but we didn’t. They would say, ‘They don’t show up because they don’t care.’ It further polarized communities.”