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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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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 04, 2010 @11:34AM (#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.

  • works in Boston (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @11:51AM (#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...

  • by maroberts ( 15852 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @11:52AM (#31724524) Homepage Journal
    I suspect that as the police might be on the receiving end of some of those fired shots, they would be unlikely to be opposed to a system which worked reliably. If the system was not installed or operated correctly then there is probably some blame attached to the company for not offering the correct support to ensure these went smoothl
  • 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).

  • by DrVxD ( 184537 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @12:15PM (#31724720) Homepage Journal

    Interesting point - but I suspect it's actually to the converse of what you're suggesting.

    Consider - the police will (generally) have localised those shots that are being fired at them - so this system makes little difference in that case. However, what it will do is locate other gunshots - which the police will then have to respond to (and thus putting themselves in the firing line)

  • by rubycodez ( 864176 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @12:21PM (#31724772)

    my wife and her cousin were mugged in full view of police camera on Argyle street ("vietnamese town"), and the images from the camera on telephone pole were utterly useless. couldn't see under hat brim to see face, the perps know they can just keep their chin slightly down with a cap and they can rob, rape, and murder in camera shot. the percentage of crimes solved using those camera pictures is in the realm of statistical noise.

    Good decent people own guns in illinois and have their FOID card, but they aren't the ones doing drive by shooting or holding up liquor stores or banks. But that idiot hypocrite Mayor Daley, who relies on armed people for protection, says gun ownership by good decent law-abiding people (the ones who don't have guns in chicago right now) having the means to defend themselves would mean an explosion of crime. what a moron, both my brothers live in states that allow concealed carry, and in both their cities of residence the crime rate has plummeted.

  • by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @12:45PM (#31724972)

    "with the response time and technology of the police nowadays that section of your constitution doesnt make a whole lot of sense to me"

    WTF are you babbling about? Been watching too many cop shows methinks. :)

    Unless you live next door to a police station, response time is still "reaction time", not "intervention/interdiction/prevention".

    That means the cops show up to scrape your dead arse off the pavement if you lost the fight.

    In my case, I lived far enough out that the cops couldn't find my house for more than a half-hour. The white trash crackheads partying on my perimeter road told my wife (I was deployed at the time) to piss off when she asked them to leave. That they didn't do more is likely because she was carrying a 5.56 Ruger Mini-14. She returned to the house, put a few rounds into the ground (NOT horizontally, no one was in danger) where they couldn't see the impact area but we could dig up the bullets if required), and they left rapidly never to return.

    The sheriff was pleased, our neighbors ditto, and we got no more visitors. Beats going home to a fucked/dead wife and a looted house in my book.

    BTW, the US can't be peaceful because it is too culturally and economically diverse. American subgroups have nothing in common, so the only way to keep society reasonably peaceful is to contain the most violent by force. Even the Coalition allows Iraqi heads of household to have one full-auto battle rifle because it is necessary in order to avoid being a victim.

  • by somersault ( 912633 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @12:50PM (#31725034) Homepage Journal
    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 another algorithm that works out likely echo patterns that way. A lot of American cities seem to be developed in a criss-cross pattern so that might make the task easier, but here in the UK the cities are just a mish-mash of different building types and curving streets..
  • Re:Or... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 04, 2010 @12:56PM (#31725072)
    > You're missing the point.
    > Gun control laws do nothing to stop criminals from carrying guns, but they do stop law abiding citizens from carrying guns.

    Too often the difference between a law abiding citizen and a criminal is the point when he/she pulls the trigger.
  • Re:works in Boston (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ihlosi ( 895663 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @01:00PM (#31725112)
    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 PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Sunday April 04, 2010 @01:39PM (#31725434) Journal

    You gotta understand the police mentality.

    I'm fascinated by the popularity of this opinion, as if more than a very few slashdotters actually "understand the police mentality".

    I grew up at a time when cops (especially my hometown Chicago cops) were known as "pigs" and distrusted at least and more likely hated. I lived through the "police riots" at the '68 convention and the torture scandals of the 70's and 80's. I adopted those opinions as "conventional wisdom".

    However, in the past decade, I bought a house just a block from the Chicago Police Academy, and have even given tai chi classes to department veterans trying to make the new weight regulations. I've had quite a lot of interaction (non-adversarial) with Chicago cops in that time.

    Today, in my opinion, the Chicago Police Department is a very professional, service-oriented force. Well-trained and well-educated. The cadets that I'm seeing going through training have defied my stereotypes as neanderthal thugs. This is not your father's police department. Their anti-terrorism unit is probably better-trained than the FBI's (the same is true of New York's antiterrorism unit, which has better intelligence-gathering than the FBI, for sure).

    To charge that their evaluation of this software had anything to do with "dick-swinging" is Anonymous Cowardice of the worst kind. Whoever you are, your claims don't match my first-hand experience. As lorenlal below stated, and was modded "troll" for, it sounds like you're talking from bitterness, ignorance and lack of evidence.

  • by colinrichardday ( 768814 ) <> on Sunday April 04, 2010 @01:50PM (#31725530)

    I'm sure those would-be murderers will scrupulously follow the law.

  • by Posting=!Working ( 197779 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @02:05PM (#31725638)

    .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 subsonic ammunition is enough, I've heard more than one that sounded quieter than a BB gun.

  • by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @02:13PM (#31725686)

    The Swiss have been armed to the teeth for hundreds of years.

    They have a peaceful society, prosperity, and hot babes. The Swiss experience is THE argument for the classical definition of "militia" as used by the US Founders. Their government dare not become oppressive given a completely armed citizenry. Their traditions and cultural uniformity have combined with this to produce an excellent place to live.

    Whatever one thinks of Israel, they are ready to react on-the-spot to attacks and often do. Given that perpetual war (low intensity interrupted by bouts of high intensity combat) is the only way for Israel not to be destroyed, they are as ready as they can be.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @03:47PM (#31726428) Homepage

    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 levelled, and replaced with a Four Seasons Hotel and an office building full of lawyers. The area nearby, across the freeway, with a low-end motel and some housing, was also levelled and replaced by a large mall and an Ikea store.

    Then real estate prices in the area went up, many of the poor people were forced out, and the crime rate went down.

  • Re:works in Boston (Score:3, Interesting)

    by causality ( 777677 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @05:27PM (#31727154)

    Red herring. These cameras help investigate and prosecute crimes by taking pictures when a shot is fired, of the area where the shot was fired.

    Nothing was said about preventing crimes.

    Now that you have demonstrated your lack of reading comprehension, please shut the fuck up.

    Easy there. Crime prevention isn't a red herring, unless you think a person walking down the street should care about which particular thug wants to harm him. I can hypothetically imagine the thug now, saying "Bruce got locked up because the camera took his picture - I'm Joe and I'll be mugging you instead." If more violent crimes are being prosecuted, that's probably a good thing. But if that isn't making the streets any safer, then lack of prosecutions is not the source of the problem.

    If a pipe bursts in your basement and it's flooding the place, bailing out the water is not the first step you should take. The first step you should take is to turn off the water supply. Likewise, putting criminals in jail is a way to get them out of the streets. But if one or two thugs replaces each one you put in jail, you need to find out why. Otherwise, all you have is a hammer and you think everything is a nail.

  • Gang leaders (Score:4, Interesting)

    by OrwellianLurker ( 1739950 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @06:10PM (#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.
  • by colonelquesadilla ( 1693356 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @08:07PM (#31728314)
    Yes you can do that, but the fact is that gangsta's rap about their nines, not their subsonic .22s that barely stop a bunny let alone a pissed off human at dozens of yards while driving by and not being able to aim effectively. .22s are a bitch to dig out, and yes, .22 rounds kill lots of people, but the idea that everyone is going to switch to bolt action .22 rifles and actually aim is a bit silly. Hell, even if they did that at least fewer innocents would be caught in crossfires. If these things work, and I don't know if they do, I suspect the emergency services would get a lot use out of them. Maybe less for the police and more for the EMTs, since a couple minutes response time is still lots if you are running, and there are supposedly no cameras attached.
  • by colonelquesadilla ( 1693356 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @08:15PM (#31728378)
    I agree with this as well, sorry no mod points right now. One of the main reasons that I feel such animosity toward police is that they have literally never helped me directly at all, except perhaps in NYC where some nice officers in the bronx were willing to give us directions to get back to where we meant to be. Even that small amount of help made me feel much better about NYPD than the local police anywhere else I've lived. Even when I've called the police in Texas myself I always had the feeling they were trying to find something I had done wrong, and nothing was ever resolved through calling them.
  • Re:Or... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by swillden ( 191260 ) <> on Sunday April 04, 2010 @10:54PM (#31729550) Homepage Journal

    Contrast and compare to Switzerland

    That's because they're properly trained to use the guns while they do national service. You can hardly compare mass ex-military gun control to what we have where they're nothing more than penis extensions for morons and cowards.


    Like most people who hold "training" in such high regard and believe that it's the difference between someone who can be trusted with a dangerous weapon and someone who cannot, I'm sure you've never had any.

    Training teaches some useful things, certainly. One very important thing that it teaches is how to safely handle a weapon. But that portion of the training only takes about 30 minutes (though many hours of practice help to ingrain the safe-handling habits). Beyond that, all of the training that soldiers and police receive with their firearms is primarily about marksmanship and tactics. The difference between cover and concealment and how to make use of them. Shooting accurately from cover, with either hand. Shooting accurately while moving. Tactics for building clearing. Tactics for assaulting various sorts of prepared positions. That sort of thing. Police also spend a lot of time on the legalities of shooting, on defending their firearms from gun-grab attempts, etc.

    With that understood, can you tell me, please, just what aspect of all of that training it is that makes the difference between a person who can store a fully-automatic main battle rifle in their closet for decades and never harm a soul and someone who likes to wave his pistol around and cap anyone who offends him?

    I'll answer my own question: NOTHING. The difference between those two is their social responsibility and emotional stability, not their training. Criminals rarely shoot people accidentally -- they shoot people because they want to, because it gives them power over people. It especially gives them power over unarmed people.

    Firearms training doesn't change what you do with a gun, it just changes how effectively you do it. The fact that all those Swiss gun owners have been trained is not what keeps them from shooting up their neighborhoods.

What is algebra, exactly? Is it one of those three-cornered things? -- J.M. Barrie