Detroit PD turns to audio analysis technology for gunshot tracking

Posted on Oct 03, 2014

The recent installation of audio gunshot tracking hardware and software may pay off for Detroit police by improving detection of otherwise unreported incidents and helping officers solve gun-related crimes. The sensors are part of a pilot program to test the feasibility of the technology for widespread implementation, according to The Detroit News. The hardware, made by law enforcement technology business ShotSpotter, is mounted on streetlights. For a dense urban area such as Detroit, this means plenty of potential places to install the relatively low-profile sensor units.

Detroit police are testing a new gunshot tracking system

Promising results so far

The test run has been productive so far, with reports of 24 shots fired that may have otherwise not been heard by officers or members of the local community. Detroit Police Chief James Craig told The Detroit News that the system still requires some fine-tuning, however, as the system may be categorizing some false positives as gunshots. The real-time tracking and reporting aspects of the software may show the most potential for routine police use, as they allow officers to be dispatched as soon as a gunshot occurs. The hardware is made only to recognize, record and report loud and explosive noises, The Detroit News reported. This limitation has led to an endorsement from the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which often opposes surveillance and listening devices.

Tracking stationary and moving shots fired

The system is able to determine where a shot was fired down to the individual street address, according to The Detroit News. When firearms are used in a moving vehicle, the software can determine where a shot originated as well as the speed of the vehicle and the direction of travel, which are especially useful for officers in the area responding to an alert. State NPR affiliate Michigan Radio reported that officers can be dispatched just minutes after a shooting with more accurate information than is usually possible with a 911 call. One particularly useful reporting aspect for officers is the ability to determine if a firearm is a semi-automatic or fully automatic, which is important from a situational awareness standpoint. The ability to track and respond to shots fired that aren't reported is also important - Craig told The Detroit News that of all the shots reported by the system, none were called in by neighborhood residents.

Technology improves policing

Technological advances are happening in all areas, including law enforcement, at a quickening pace. NC4 Street Smart is one innovation that can provide officers the tools they need to accurately and quickly report incidents as soon as possible, instead of returning to the station to log a report at the end of a shift. The ability to log crime data in real-time provides another path to improve the effectiveness of officers on patrol and for the next shift coming on duty, as well as to track and analyze where and when incidents occur throughout a department's jurisdiction.

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