ShotSpotter Gunshot 'Listening' Technology Comes To Chicago Police Force

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Chicago police are using a new technology that can listen for gunshots and help the responding officers pinpoint where they were fired. The technology, called ShotSpotter, relies on an acoustics-based, GPS-equipped system to feed police the location of a gunshot.

"Not only do we learn where the shots are being fired but now those officers can actually turn cameras on the location, get actionable intelligence that they can feed to the officers in the field as they're approaching," Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy explained Thursday via an NBC Chicago broadcast.

According to CBS Chicago, ShotSpotter can differentiate sounds such as fireworks and backfires from vehicles from gunshots.

Police patrolling some of the city's police districts that have been hardest hit by gun violence are using ShotSpotter, including Englewood, Chicago Lawn, Grand Crossing and Harrison.

The newer systems that are supposed to have improved accuracy come just a few years after the city originally questioned the reliability of the technology, which neighboring Gary, Ind., has been using with good results since 2005. Police officials gave the ShotSpotter technology used in Gary a chance before quietly pulling the initiative. The city tried a different system in 2004 in which microphones and cameras were mounted on poles.

In a 2010 report, a police official told NBC Chicago the ShotSpotter technology at the time was "not entirely effective" in an urban environment, also citing the high costs as a reason for abandoning the program.

NBC Chicago reports the newer system comes with a price tag of roughly $100,000 for every 1.5 square miles its used. The technology is currently used in three square miles.

The announcement comes the same week McCarthy told the City Council he disagreed that the hiring of more police officers was the solution to the city's high crime rate.

"There's no studies that show that more cops means less murders," McCarthy told aldermen at the city's budget hearing Wednesday.

At the same time, the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy, or CAPS program--the office in charge of coordinating CPD and with neighborhood crime prevention efforts--has been "reorganized." There was no money budgeted for CAPS in the 2013 budget, according to the Chicago Reader.

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