The New York City Police Department recently launched a million dollar technology initiative, in its fight against gun violence. The technology solution they will employ is called ShotSpotter, which is manufactured via the company SST, Inc. The CEO of SST Inc. is Ralph A. Clark, an African American that is also a veteran of the tech industry.
Sensors and Algorithms Versus Bullets
ShotSpotter is an acoustic surveillance technology that uses sensors to detect gun violence. It employs sophisticated classification algorithms to weed out sounds that are not gunshots and checks, before pushing out alerts. “That alert shows up in our control center in the form of a dot on a map, along with round counts. That is what our acoustic reviewers listen to. Then, once they are comfortable, if it is a gunshot, they push a button, and through the Internet, a ‘toaster oven’ alert will pop-up for someone monitoring at a dispatch center or in a patrol car,” says Clark. “The screen is divided in two; on the right is a picture of a map with a dot on it, and then on the left, is all the metadata.”
The NYPD rolled out ShotSpotter as a pilot program, in areas of the Bronx and Brooklyn, last year. The program worked so well, the agency expanded the program to include almost all of northern Manhattan. At a press conference, a spokesperson for the NYPD spoke of ShotSpotter’s effectiveness. “At 05:15 hours on Saturday morning, April 2nd, just over 24 hours after we went live, officers from [the] 32 Precinct in Harlem received the ShotSpotter alert to 465 Lenox Avenue for multiple shots fired,” she relayed. “Responding officers found 15 shell casings from guns, a 9 mm and a .45 caliber in the immediate vicinity of a 133rd and Lenox, where ShotSpotter directed them to go.”
The NYPD says it recovered 43 firearms because of ShotSpotter alerts, since the technology was first deployed. The percentage of alerts without 911 calls has remained constant, with 75% to 80% of gunfire incidents in New York City going unreported to 911.