OrgWatch: ShotSpotter targets gunshots with acoustic sensors

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ShotSpotter does pretty much what it’s name implies, but spots via sound.  It’s pretty impressive:

I was originally introduced to this idea by someone at Tactical Philanthropy, who was investing in the technology and spoke about it at NYU’s 2009 Annual Satter Conference on Social Entrepreneurs.

People will claim that, even with these sensors to identify the location of gunshots, the shooters will likely have fled the scene before responders can arrive.  The National Institute of Justice concedes in a report that it is unlikely to lead to more arrests. However, there have been a success stories here and there.

The real long-term benefit, though, is strategic.  Aside from the potential to have quicker response time and even arrests in a few cases, the data itself might help to give a much realer picture of the level of crime some of our cities are facing.  The aforementioned report states that only a dismal 23% of gunshots are ever reported.  Getting these things down on maps and into data models will be a good step towards better law enforcement.

My biggest concern is that police, knowing that a gun is in their vicinity, may get itchier trigger fingers.  But that is an issue of management and discipline, and one we should be constantly perfecting nonetheless.

Posted on January 21st 2010 in OrgWatch

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