Device Helps Police Detect Gunshots
A handful of police departments across the country are using an expensive listening device that can pinpoint the location of gunshots within about two miles. ShotSpotter saves departments from having to send out extra SWAT teams in response to reports of gunshots, since the teams that are sent out are more targeted.
The technology is currently only available in a wired device that is affixed to telephone poles and uses phone lines to connect to a central server. Dispatch personnel then alert officers of the gunshot coordinates, which are often accurate to just a few feet. But interest in a wireless version led Congress to allocate about $750,000 in research funds to the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center-Southeast.
Based in Mountain View, Calif., ShotSpotter is already developing a wireless version that uses radio frequency signals to communicate and could be deployed in an hour, says CEO James Beldock. The improved version would also have more sophisticated sound-analysis software to determine what type of gun was fired, but the wireless version will cost about $5,000–nearly twice as much as the wired version.
Law enforcement agencies pay $180,000 for the ShotSpotter system, including eight sensors, and the company is also planning a wearable version to be offered in conjunction with wearable computing company Xybernaut. That device would be about the size of a BlackBerry email device and almost immediately inform officers wearing it to gunshot locations.
Planning Systems is also working with traffic signal company OptiSoft on a gunshot-location detector that would be incorporated into traffic lights. University of New Orleans law enforcement technology expert Peter Scharf says stand-alone technology such as ShotSpotter needs to be integrated with other functions, such as the ability to detect biochemicals, in order to reduce systems complexity.
Abstracted by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center(NLECTC) from the Wall Street Journal (06/23/04) P. B4F; Fuscaldo, Donna .