With all the coverage that security video in public places gets, it’s easy to neglect some other “on-the-street” technology which supports public safety in towns and cities. One of these approaches is gunshot detection.

With the celebration of New Year’s Eve now a memory, there was the concern that citizens would celebrate by shooting off their guns in the neighborhood at the stroke of midnight. That was the case in Gary, Ind., where city officials – mirroring other cities – reminded residents of gun dangers throughout late December.

But law enforcement in the northern Indiana town went further. Gary police temporarily extended its existing ShotSpotter Gunshot Location System to reach areas previously not covered to bulk up the protection for New Year’s Eve. During the holiday, 16 sensors, ten of them mobile and six temporarily installed in fixed locations, were added to the existing system linked into dispatch. Officers wore the mobile sensors on their uniforms as they canvassed parts of the city, while other sensors were mounted in squad cars. A police van equipped with the visual feedback data from the sensors and dispatch equipment served as the mobile tactical command center. This command center also had the added benefit of tracking capability, so dispatchers could see not only the gunfire on screen, but also the position of all officers. Dispatch could easily tell those officers closest to the incident where to respond.

In California, East Palo Alto police say gunfire detection system working well. A year after it became the first U.S. municipality to get a citywide gunfire detection system, the police chief and other department leaders say the technology has helped officers arrive at shooting scenes more quickly, aided in computer-assisted crime trend analyses, and contributed to a roughly 20 percent drop in firearm assaults from a year ago.

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