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New York Police to Expand ShotSpotter Technology

System of audio sensors to detect gunfire to be rolled out across 69 square miles of the city

August 03, 2017
Wall Street Journal: New York

The New York Police Department will expand its use of a technology that helps officers respond quickly to shootings by sending real-time alerts to police when it detects gunshots, officials said Thursday.

Police officials made the announcement about broadening the deployment of the ShotSpotter system at a news conference where they also reported 17% fewer shooting incidents compared with last year.
ShotSpotter uses audio sensors deployed on rooftops and street poles and alerts officers in the area to shootings. Officers are also able to hear the sound of the gunshots on their smartphones, as well as access the location of the incident.

The city began investing in the technology in 2015 and in the last year expanded the area where it is deployed to 54 square miles, an increase of 30 square miles, said Jessica Tisch, the NYPD’s deputy commissioner of information technology. By summer’s end, the system will be rolled out across 60 square miles. The technology costs $225,000 annually for every three square miles covered.

In addition, Ms. Tisch said the city would fund the deployment of the sensors in nine additional square miles, in parts of Staten Island, Queens and the Bronx, by the end of the year.
“It’s been a great bonus for us in the detective bureau that we did not think we were going to get a couple years ago,” Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said.

The technology allows police to respond to shootings they otherwise might not know about, Ms. Tisch said. Only 16% of ShotSpotter alerts have 911 calls associated with them, Ms. Tisch said.
The low number of 911 calls points to an area the NYPD can improve when it comes to police and community relations. Commissioner James O’Neill said the police department would aim to “close that gap” between the number of 911 reports and ShotSpotter incidents.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said other statistics—such as a decline in the number of complaints made against the police—show an improving relationship between the police and the community.
The technology isn’t perfect—it detects sounds that aren’t shootings, such as firecrackers 5% of the time—but it has assisted in investigations. Ms. Tisch said 1,740 shootings have been detected so far this year. Police responding to the detections have seized 31 guns and made 61 arrests this year.

Police departments across the country are adopting technology into their daily policing strategies. ShotSpotter is used in more than 90 cities across the country, including Chicago, Minneapolis and Miami.
“We’ve also heard from our detectives that it is an incredible investigative tool,” Ms. Tisch said. “We know about more shots fired incidents in the city.”