Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Crime Hardware Technology

Chicago Debates Merits of ShotSpotter Technology 385

Posted by Soulskill
from the think-of-it-as-a-ping-that-makes-bad-people-go-away dept.
theodp writes "After a week that saw more than 40 people shot and at least 4 killed, Chicago politicians and police are at odds on whether to implement ShotSpotter, a camera and acoustic sensor-based gunshot-location system that is designed to pinpoint a shooter's location within seconds. The Chicago Police Department opposes such a move, saying ShotSpotter wasn't reliable in an earlier trial and — at $250,000 for a square mile of coverage — is too expensive. The company says the system has dramatically lowered crime rates in cities across the country. ShotSpotter is currently deployed in two countries and 51 US cities and counties."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Chicago Debates Merits of ShotSpotter Technology

Comments Filter:
  • by kabloom (755503) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @10:27AM (#31724348) Homepage

    Well, if the Chicago police are saying "we tried it and it doesn't work", I'd listen to them rather than the company.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Well, if the Chicago police are saying "we tried it and it doesn't work", I'd listen to them rather than the company.

      Especially seeing as, if it does get deployed and someone is prosecuted based on evidence from it, the first thing the accused will do is turn around and say "Hey, even the local police force doesn't believe in this crap, so how can you use it against me in court?"

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Jim_Maryland (718224)
        I haven't kept up on the technology recently but a former co-worker had pointed me to this when his previous employer became involved with Shot Spotter. The technology simply provided police with the time and location of the gunshots so they could respond. In neighborhoods where the residents live in fear of those committing the violence, police were not getting any reports of gun activity due to that fear. Police were then able to get to the scene in a reasonable time so they had a higher chance of help
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 04, 2010 @10:34AM (#31724398)

      You gotta understand the police mentality. They resist any kind of change, more so if it's going to make them busy and even more if it'll get them in trouble. Picture highschool, if you will. Remember the jocks on the football team? By and large, it's the same mentality.

      I implemented a software project for a police department. I did my homework, fully vetted the system. I had limited trials and corrected what needed to be corrected. Come deployment, not a single officer used it. After months of work, the project was canned because the offers had "tried it and it didn't work". Aside from my early adopters ( the ones who had used it while it beta so I could squash any last minute bugs ), not a single officer had logged in to the system.

      Later I find out that they were upset that they weren't getting their 12% annual contract raise, and because the software had cost something on the order of 10,000, they were boycotting it for dick-swinging reasons. These aren't the kind of people I would base any decision on.

      That said, it speaks more that the politicians do want this system. That'd be enough to terminate any project as far as I am concerned.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by lorenlal (164133)

        Bitterness: High
        Anecdotal: Much
        Citations: Needed

        I'll believe that you did the work you claim. Even the best software fails for reasons beyond the developers' control. But to claim that it was from 'dick-swinging' sounds... well.. petty and bitter. Especially since the statement started with "Later I find out..."

        Pretty much, you're bitter from hearsay... And you're pissed that they cut your project because of lack of adoption. Sorry. But don't take it out on *all* cops.

        As an IT guy, I'm pretty used to b

      • Last time I heard of this technology, it worked great in open areas. But if it was deployed in a place with many hard surfaces, like the average city, it became confused by all the echoes and didn't do so well.

        Bats don't have any problem with cave interiors, so it would seem locating gunshots despite the hard surfaces should be possible, maybe even easier with all the echoes. Maybe they've solved this by now?

        There any independent lab or testing organization that can say? Or any other organization tha

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by somersault (912633)
          I'm not a physicist, but it seems that it would be relatively trivial to work out the location of a sound in an open space by using 3 or more mics. Adding echoes certainly wouldn't simplify the algorithm, but yes it should still be possible to do it. I suspect you could probably train up a neural net to learn the echo patterns when sounds are made location (this would obviously need to be done individually for each installation), or you could do it the hard way and build a 3D model of the city and have anot
      • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @01:21PM (#31725744)

        I live in Chicago and read quite a bit about the policing system and policies here and I fully agree with your assessment.

        The police force needs to be seen as blue-collar guys who are most interested in their union and their own paycheck first than any kind of systemic change. I read a couple of policeman's blogs and its interesting to see how they oppose the existing camera system. Their big beef is that if this stuff costs money than thats money that can be used on raises, better perks, and more detectives.

        While I dont know how well this system works, I do know that the CPD is biased and the assessment should come from a third party that is not affiliate with any union.

        That said, the cost isn't low, but you'll only need it in some parts of the south side and some parts of the west side (garfield park, west humboldt park). I live in a neighborhood that borders Humboldt park and see some pretty bad things now and again. Chicago is in the middle of a crime/gang epidemic and we need new ideas and new technologies. Doubly so in areas where residents have bought into a 'dont snitch' philosophy and refuse to report crime to the police or answer any questions when they have been vicitiized, because of fear of gang retaliation. Cameras and microphones dont fear 'dont snitch'.

    • by zippthorne (748122) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @10:37AM (#31724420) Journal

      Indeed. Unless it's a union ploy and it really does work.

      In which case, $250k per square mile doesn't really seem that bad to me, though, assuming it's the one-time installation fee and not a yearly operational cost. That's 640 acres, and at Chicago's population density of 12k per square mile means the system only costs $20 per "covered" resident.

      • by causality (777677) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @11:20AM (#31724770)

        Indeed. Unless it's a union ploy and it really does work.

        In which case, $250k per square mile doesn't really seem that bad to me, though, assuming it's the one-time installation fee and not a yearly operational cost. That's 640 acres, and at Chicago's population density of 12k per square mile means the system only costs $20 per "covered" resident.

        If this system is deployed, I predict that silencers and/or ballistic knives will become popular on Chicago's black market. If there weren't already such well-known, low-tech devices that can defeat this system, I might consider its merits. I wish we'd embrace good old-fashioned police work instead of trying to find technological shortcuts around it. These arms-race scenarios are only one reason I feel that way.

        If we really wanted to reduce crime, we'd legalize the personal use of drugs by adults, release all of the non-violent drug offenders, and use the (tremendous amount of) extra jail space for violent criminals. We'd have more honor that way too, if we only used police to go after criminals who hurt others and stopped using them to tell adults what they may ingest. Unlike the ShotSpotter system, this would both reduce crime and save money.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Broken scope (973885)

          It is called a "Suppressor" not a silencer for a reason. Unless street thugs start buying $1000+ guns instead of $50 used hi-points, this system will remain effective and useful.

          Ballistic knives? I think people are just going to stick to stabbing rather than running around with a spring powered knife launcher.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            .22 sub sonic rounds and a 2 liter bottle duct filled with plastic bags taped to the end will work as a suppressor for quite a few shots. A 20 Oz bottle will work for a couple of shots and is more concealable. The ammo costs the same as regular .22LR ammo, $3 for 50 rounds was cheapest I found it. It hurts the accuracy, but most gun crime is at extremely close range; less than 5 yards, IIRC.

            Not that it would be very useful for street crime, bit if you have a .22 rifle with a long barrel just using the subs

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by swb (14022)

          If we really wanted to reduce crime, we'd legalize the personal use of drugs by adults, release all of the non-violent drug offenders, and use the (tremendous amount of) extra jail space for violent criminals.

          You're absolutely right. Even if it was just marijuana it would have a huge effect. The amount of manpower and money wasted chasing drug crimes is staggering.

          I would go one step further and increase the manpower and resources devoted to solving/protecting against property crime as well. The benefits

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Rivalz (1431453)

        I would say that if they could link this technology with fast acting satellite survailance it would go a long way to reducing the cost of solving a homicide in terms of man hours.
        Since it would be close to the same as a policeman thinking their is a crime in progress I would also think that would cut down on some of the privacy hurdles we all know and love.
        If you had pinpoint precision, plus satellite & infrared / thermal coverage you could do some real damage to crime.

        I doubt it would do much for Murde

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Doesnt seem so bad? Lets play math.

        the city covers 234 square miles. that's nearly 60 million dollars.

        the urban area covers 2122 sq miles. thats 530+ million dollars.

        the metro area covers 10874 sq miles. thats in excess of 2.7 billion dollars.

        But wait, there's more: for this extremely large amount of cash in a city already nearly bankrupt, you also get a questionable, statistically ambiguous reduction in crime.

        Yes sir, that's money spent that is.

      • by Sir_Lewk (967686)

        $20 per resident? Well at that price we could almost just inject GPS trackers under the skin of everyone!

    • by plover (150551) * on Sunday April 04, 2010 @10:41AM (#31724454) Homepage Journal

      Well, if the Chicago police are saying "we tried it and it doesn't work", I'd listen to them rather than the company.

      I doubt the police have the most informed opinion. RTFA, the city didn't even hook it into the 911 call center, the way the successful cities did.

      My guess is the police are looking at the $250,000/square mile cost and saying "We could put 4 more officers on the street for that money." Never mind the misunderstanding of the difference between up front and ongoing costs.

      Basing a decision on a flawed study and the opinions of someone who believes they will financially suffer is not a recipe for a good result.

    • by SuperBanana (662181) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @11:03AM (#31724618)

      Well, if the Chicago police are saying "we tried it and it doesn't work", I'd listen to them rather than the company.

      Police aren't unbiased either. If a tool (or effective policing) pushes crime out of an area, you don't need as many police officers in that area, do you? And if it works in one part of the city, it'll probably work in others. That means layoffs. Let me know when you hit that stage of your life where you realize that the police have little incentive to effectively enforce the law.

      Sorta similar to firefighters. Fire calls have dropped in the last 20-30 years to 1/4 of what they used to be; more sprinkler systems, better building and electrical codes, etc. We just don't need nearly as many firefighters these days. So rather than lay off firefighters (or reassign them to work in small rescue crews, or in ambulances as rescue techs) the city of Boston now sends out in many cases TWO fire trucks to any medical or vehicle crash call, putting unnecessary miles on expensive heavy equipment and running up fuel bills.

      But, they get to look busy...

      • by TheLink (130905)
        > We just don't need nearly as many firefighters these days

        Just need a few more precious pet cats stuck up trees.
      • by Vellmont (569020)


        If a tool (or effective policing) pushes crime out of an area, you don't need as many police officers in that area, do you?

        That wouldn't be my guess as to why the police oppose it.

        Think about it this way. If a tool makes more police have to respond more often and more quickly to shooting incidents with still armed suspects.. do you really think the police would favor that?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Kadmos (793363)

        That's some lovely insights you have there. Do you actually have any experience in an emergency service to back up you up your claims (none of which are correct)? I certainly hope that next time you are trapped in a vehicle covered in blood and sitting in your own shit and vomit, your flesh all broken and mangled and your eyes hanging our of their sockets that society can spare $50 in fuel to pay for extra services to be directed your way. If they aren't needed, well they can return to station.

        Road Crash Re

  • by TheStatsMan (1763322) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @10:40AM (#31724444)
    ...and with it shall go the supposed evidence. The paltry statistic of 244 gunshots in a two month period vs. 177 in another does not indicate anything about supposed trends in gun crime. Furthermore, yearly gun crime is what is of importance, not a few weeks.
  • by Z8 (1602647) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @10:50AM (#31724508)
    Anything that increases compound bow or crossbow homicides can't be bad.
  • works in Boston (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SuperBanana (662181) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @10:51AM (#31724514)
    I regularly see news stories in Boston where the police get a shotspotter alert, show up, find a guy bleeding out on the sidewalk, and sometimes they find him fast enough to call EMS and get him to a hospital and save his life.

    I don't think they should have cameras, but the technology is sound- and it certainly is better use of tax money than where most money is going (all sorts of anti-terrorism crap.) The question: why is such a simple technology so hideously expensive? There should be little patentable in the field, given how old and obvious sonic triangulation is. The equipment is super simple- an embedded computer in an outdoor enclosure with a microphone...

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by DaveV1.0 (203135)

      Please explain why they should not have cameras, especially when almost every city in the United States have laws against discharging fire arms within city limits?

      Please explain why they should not have cameras when said cameras may help stop a murderer?

      Oh, and if you are going to piss on about "privacy", the cameras and actions take place in PUBLIC. No one has an expectation of privacy in a public space. So, if you are going to say something about privacy, you can STFU now.

      • by Jaime2 (824950)
        Cameras do not reduce crime. London has tens of thousands of cameras and they have not made the city safer. So, why spend millions and slightly erode privacy for no benefit?
      • Re:works in Boston (Score:5, Informative)

        by bmo (77928) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @11:18AM (#31724760)

        Please explain why they should not have cameras, especially when almost every city in the United States have laws against discharging fire arms within city limits?

        Because in the UK, the home of the highest number of cameras per capita, the technology has not helped one bit. Crime is not down, and the cameras are used instead to look into peoples' windows (as been documented more than once). Cameras are an excuse for the flatfoots to get flat asses from sitting around all day.

        In other words, impracticality and blatant misuse as entertainment.

        That's why.

        That's totally ignoring any sociological/political argument which I will not go into here because it will be like pissing into an ocean of piss.

        --
        BMO

      • by Sir_Lewk (967686)

        Why? Because to some of us, some things are more important than safety.

        Please explain why we shouldn't strip search every single air passenger, if it could help stop a single terrorist incident? The government is manipulating you with fear, and some of us have had enough of it already. This just about privacy, this is about the government getting once step closer to forming a police state. This is about the progressive destruction of presumption of innocence.

    • by ezzzD55J (697465)

      the technology is sound

      nice pun ;)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by stuffman64 (208233)

      The triangulation is the easy part. The hard part is figuring out what exactly is a gunshot and what is firecrackers, backfires, kids popping plastic bags, etc. Being able to accurately determine this is not trivial, and thus is costly.

      Of course, as something sold to the government, there's always going to be excessive markup, because they know they can get away with it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Ihlosi (895663)
      There should be little patentable in the field, given how old and obvious sonic triangulation is.

      Sonic triangulation is only simple if you're trying it on a flat field, i.e. no echoes, absorption, reflections, etc.

      Using sonic triangulation in a city isn't simple - unless you're placing a bajilion sensors all over the place (which is expensive in its own right).

  • by BigSlowTarget (325940) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @10:54AM (#31724548) Journal

    Charge $300,000 per sq mile and kick $50k back to the police department for 'overtime related to training and special classes.' Don't monitor if the classes are performed or even necessary. Don't check if the system is used after implementation.

    The police get funding - they win. The company gets cash - they win. The politicians get to look like they're doing something using cutting edge technology against crime which they can feature in their next election - they win.

    It's the perfect solution! No one who matters (in the mind of our leaders) gets hurt.

  • It works great, or so I'm told. They're able to get cops to where the shooter fired within minutes- and in plenty of time to round up witnesses who swear they "saw nuttin".

    There's been at least one drive by in my 'work' neighborhood, and about a dozen+ deaths within a mile. Two bullets in our building. One in the front door within 5 minutes of me entering it (now THAT will freak you out- come into work, forget something, go back to the car and the door has been shot).

  • 40 people shot and at least 4 killed in a week??? That are insane for a city with only 2.8 million people. Is Chicago the hell hole of all crime in USA?

  • by jcr (53032) <jcr.mac@com> on Sunday April 04, 2010 @11:05AM (#31724636) Journal

    Let's see... $250 grand per square mile. What's it cost to obtain a silencer from the friendly neighborhood gun dealer?

    After a dozen or so people get caught with this technology, I give it about a year before all the gangs in chicago start using silencers as standard equipment.

    -jcr

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      FYI, technically they are referred to as "suppressors". A properly built gun/suppressor combo can be almost totally silent, but that is rare.

      But even an improvised suppressor could drop the sound of a gun discharging to below the likely activation threshold of these devices.

      Another tid-bit, you can legally own a suppressor with the correct permits from the government.
  • How long are these expected to last? If it is only like 10 years.... It would be cheaper to hire 'listeners' at minimum wage and spread them across the city. And that money gets better distributed and helps employ people. Give em a walkie talkie or a cellphone w/ a camera.

    TBH though I can't imagine how it could possibly cost so much. For that price you could say.... Create a city wide wifi system and stick a microphone on the top of every third telephone pole in the city. Which would be more accurate. The
    • Because human "listeners" on minimum wage would never take bribe, be susceptible to "We know where you and your family lives", the ones being shot at in the first place.

  • ... just get quieter in response.

  • East Palo Alto was the first city to have complete coverage. They say it has helped reduce shootings. It is also helping to resolve a mystery regarding a plane crash - http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/19/audio-of-tesla-plane-crash-may-help-in-determining-cause/ [nytimes.com] . I knew the pilot, who was extraordinarily careful about flying his plane and had flown out of Palo Alto airport hundreds of times. We suspect he lost his left engine during takeoff and was pulled left into the power lines (normal procedu
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Animats (122034)

      East Palo Alto was the first city to have complete coverage. They say it has helped reduce shootings.

      Shootings are way down in East Palo Alto, which used to be "Murder City, USA". But not because they have a ShotSpotter system. The highest crime area, Whiskey Gulch, was where the liquor stores were concentrated. It's the only place I've ever seen a fully bulletproofed fried chicken outlet, with food delivered through an armored turntable.

      That entire area was "redeveloped" around 2000. It was level

  • ...Sales of firecrackers and silencers in the Chicago area have been unexpectedly brisk.

  • Gang leaders (Score:4, Interesting)

    by OrwellianLurker (1739950) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @05:10PM (#31727418)
    Anyone who is somewhat important in a gang would be wise to get all the kids in the neighborhood to damage the acoustic sensors. If this was impossible, another smart move would be to start shooting A LOT. Not at anything in particular-- just grab a pistol, put it in a bag, and fire. Get out of the area quickly (ditch the gun if necessary) and waste police resources tremendously. I'm betting that after thousands of rounds being pumped into the ground the police will stop responding.

As in certain cults it is possible to kill a process if you know its true name. -- Ken Thompson and Dennis M. Ritchie

Working...