US cities test gunshot detection systems

The American electrical giant GE has partnered with a tech start-up called ShotSpotter to develop a gunshot detection system that can tell police when a firearm is discharged anywhere in a city.

The system, which is being developed by GE’s smart cities arm, was announced at an International Association of Chiefs of Police convention this week.

The idea is to fit the microphones to GE’s smart streetlights, allowing police to achieve blanket coverage of an entire urban area.

GE’s streetlights already have embedded processors, sensors and network connections that allow them to perform a number of functions – or will do in the future, as most of them are still under development. The gunshot detectors will be wired into these systems so as to be able to communicate with police computers when a gunshot is detected.

Ralph Clark, the chief executive of ShotSpotter, told The Verge website that a "$2.50 microphone" would all that would be required.

Some US cities have already fitted ShotSpotter devices in neighbourhoods with high rates of gun crime. The new system offers the ability to cover an entire city at minimal cost.

The system works by spotting the gunshot, then sending its location in real time to police stations, dispatch centres and officers’ smartphones. The technology can determine to within a few feet the location where the shots were fired, the number of rounds discharged and the number of shooters present.

The system is still under development, however the cities of Jacksonville in Florida and San Diego in California are holding trials, and New York is engaged in a two-year pilot project. Other deployments are Washington DC, San Francisco; and a high school in Newark, California.

GE’s other ideas for smart LED streetlights include the ability to direct drivers to available parking spaces, to issue warnings in the event of a hurricane through a public address speaker and to send real time images to emergency services responding to emergency calls.

Photograph: Man with handgun at poker game in Texas, 1972 (Marc St. Gil/Wikimedia Commons)

Story for GCR? Get in touch via email: [email protected]

Latest articles in News