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Chicago Debates Merits of ShotSpotter Technology 385

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."
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Chicago Debates Merits of ShotSpotter Technology

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  • Re:Or... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Scutter ( 18425 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @11:48AM (#31724496) Journal

    Or we could have reasonable gun control laws.

    Guns are already illegal within the Chicago city limits. Guess those "reasonable gun control laws" aren't quite working out like you'd hoped, huh?

  • by BigSlowTarget ( 325940 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @11:54AM (#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.

  • Re:Or... (Score:2, Informative)

    by copponex ( 13876 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @12:13PM (#31724708) Homepage

    The logistics of supplying troops in Afghanistan, Vietnam, and Somalia are what caused their defeat. There are hundreds of military and national guard installations, a huge reserve of oil, and years worth of supplies located on a national network of well-maintained roads and bridges, railways, and thousands of airports.

    Curious to note that Switzerland, with high gun ownership levels, is a very low-crime zone. The UK, by contrast, is the most violent country in Europe.

    The swiss are trained in a national guard and allowed to keep their semi-automatic weapon. In America there is no prerequisite to gun ownership. Here are the Swedish requirements via Wikipedia:

    To purchase a firearm in a commercial shop, one needs to have a Waffenerwerbsschein (weapon acquisition permit). A permit allows the purchase of three firearms. Everyone over the age of 18 who is not psychiatrically disabled (such as having had a history of endangering his own life or the lives of others) or identified as posing security problems, and who has a clean criminal record (requires a Criminal Records Bureau check) can request such a permit.

    To buy a gun from an individual, no permit is needed, but the seller is expected to establish a reasonable certainty that the purchaser will fulfill the above-mentioned conditions (usually done through a Criminal Records Bureau check). The participants in such a transaction are required to prepare a written contract detailing the identities of both vendor and purchaser, the weapon's type, manufacturer, and serial number. The law requires the written contract to be kept for ten years by the buyer and seller. The seller is also required to see some official ID from the purchaser...

    Basically, the sale of automatic firearms, selective fire weapons and certain accessoires such as sound suppressors ("silencers") is forbidden (as is the sale of certain disabled automatic firearms which have been identified as easily restored to fully automatic capability). The purchase of such items is however legal with a special permit issued by cantonal police. The issuance of such a permit requires additional requirements to be met, e.g. the possession of a specific gun locker. ...Ammunition sales are registered only at the point of sale by recording the buyer's name in a bound book.

    Curious that you don't know the difference between "reasonable gun controls" and "let's have unregulated gun bazaars, give every idiot with $1000 a semi-automatic assault rifle, and see what happens."

  • Re:works in Boston (Score:5, Informative)

    by bmo ( 77928 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @12:18PM (#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.


  • by Jaime2 ( 824950 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @12:24PM (#31724784)
    People killing people is a separate problem from firearms ubiquity. It is easy to legally purchase and carry a weapon in both Isreal and Switzerland, yet they don't have high gun crime rates. Every large survey of gun crime rates and gun control laws show very low correlation between the two.
  • by Broken scope ( 973885 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @12:28PM (#31724820) Homepage
    Police in the United States are not required to respond to anything.
  • by PinkyGigglebrain ( 730753 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @12:33PM (#31724864)
    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.
  • by Broken scope ( 973885 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @12:40PM (#31724928) Homepage

    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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 04, 2010 @12:55PM (#31725060)

    Except where prohibited by law, of course...such as the case in IL.

    Unless you're a licensed Class 3 manufacturer, you aren't able to purtchase or keep any NFA item in that state.

  • by Broken scope ( 973885 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @12:55PM (#31725064) Homepage

    Warren v. District of Columbia. []

    Castle Rock v. Gonzales []

    As loath as I am to link to this site, it gives a very good explanation. []

  • Not a silver Bullet (Score:2, Informative)

    by rshah ( 29912 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @01:22PM (#31725286) Homepage
    I have been following this story for a while. Here is my take:

    Fifth Ward Ald. Leslie Hairston wants Chicago to reintroduce the Shotspotter [] gunshot location technology. After all, Shotspotter's web site says it can reduce crime. So why isn't the CPD using it? Don't they care?

    The CPD did adopt Shotspotter and found mixed results in Chicago []. Specifically:

    The city conducted three separate tests of gunshot sensors between 2003 and 2007 in the West Side’s Harrison Police District. Only on one occasion did the detection system send a warning prior to a person calling 911 to report the shooting. As a result, the city felt the gunshot detection systems were too expensive at a cost of $200,000 a square mile.

    The city is going forward with installing the technology in the Loop. However, Shotspotter is an expensive technology and the CPD decided it wasn't the best use of their scare resources. The city of Chicago is approximately 227 square miles, so to cover the entire city would cost close to $50 million.

    The Shotspotter technology locates gunshots. In a dense city, 911 calls often serve the same function. Gunshot location is a useful piece of information for police officers, but it is not a silver bullet. It cannot by itself reduce crime. If the system is reliable and works well with officers, it could lead to less shootings (but not necessarily less crime). The independent studies I have seen show the results are quite mixed [].

    In Chicago, there has been a rash of shootings in Chicago [] were no regard for the police or cameras. Shotspotter is now the silver bullet. I am concerned that Shotspotter is seen as the answer because people are scared. It doesn't make sense to spend money on technology that makes us feel better, but is ineffective. The city can address this by making public its tests of Shotspotter. I would like more details about the tests, for example: How many gunshots were there during the tests? How accurate was the system?

    Link []

  • by gad_zuki! ( 70830 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @02:21PM (#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 Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 04, 2010 @02:51PM (#31725982)

    Holly fucking shit, Fuck this country. I just lost a lot of what little respect I had left for America.

  • by Kadmos ( 793363 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @09:10PM (#31728764)

    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 Rescue (RCR) is vastly different than it once was even 10 to 15 years ago. If you doubt me, go to your nearest station and ask them to show you the equipment on the truck and about the training they undertake to be RCR qualified. They can explain to you how many tasks they have to complete in a very limited timeframe and you can learn for yourself why two trucks are often needed. Even you want to play the numbers game about costs, you will find that the huge medical and rehabilitation costs to get people back to being productive members of society vastly outweigh the relatively small cost of having extra emergency service personnel attend and assist at the initial stages of a RCR.

    So while I can appreciate that as a taxpayer while you are sitting at home nice and safe you can think about how much something costs. I hope that you can also appreciate that when I get to an incident I have more important things to think about.

  • by Jim_Maryland ( 718224 ) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @10:35AM (#31747948)
    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 helping residents without the residents worrying about becoming targets for reporting a crime.

"Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats." -- Howard Aiken