BSO trying out sensors to locate gunfire source

(MSNBC)   Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti filled his silver .357-caliber revolver with several blank cartridges and pointed the pistol toward the sky

Bang, bang, bang, bang!

Sound sensors, hidden in secure locations across the neighborhood, picked up the gunshot sounds and relayed the information to software, which immediately pinpointed Lamberti’s shots to within a few feet of where he stood. A computer monitor displayed the location on a map.

The Broward Sheriff’s Office Wednesday began using the ShotSpotter system in northeast Broward County to detect when and where gunshots are fired, Lamberti said.

ShotSpotter is aimed at fighting gun violence by letting deputies and paramedics respond faster to shootings or learn about shootings that would otherwise would have gone unreported.

Lamberti demonstrated the ShotSpotter to deputies, Pompano commissioners, FBI agents and reporters who gathered in a Pompano Beach field Wednesday morning.

“With this technology in place, it’s going to take the human factor out of it,” Lamberti said. “We still want the [911] calls. But even if nobody calls, ShotSpotter is going to let us know that a gunshot incident occurred.”

The FBI loaned the system, which costs an estimated $500,000, to the Sheriff’s Office for one year. Lamberti said if the testing proves it’s effective, the Sheriff’s Office would consider seeking grants or other funding to buy its own system.

ShotSpotter guarantees accuracy to within 75 feet, but the system usually narrows it to within three to 10 feet, said Gregg Rowland, senior vice president of sales and marketing for ShotSpotter Inc., based in Mountain View, Calif.

The system can differentiate between gunshots and other loud noise, such as malfunctioning cars or fireworks, he said.

Fifty law enforcement agencies across the United States have bought the system, including Riviera Beach, which will begin using it soon, Rowland said.

Rowland said ShotSpotter has helped reduce violent crime in some communities by as much as 40 percent, and overall gunfire by as much as 80 percent.

The Broward Sheriff’s Office declined to say exactly where its sound sensors were placed, only that Pompano Beach is participating.

The city was chosen because it had a high number of gunshot reports — nearly 300 — from November 2008 to September 2009, Lamberti said. Some calls were unfounded.

Wednesday’s demonstration was held across the street from Hunters Manor Park, where Randolph Canion, 33, of Pompano Beach, was fatally shot during an argument in May 2009.

Lamberti wondered aloud if ShotSpotter could have helped save him, asking, “If the system had been in place then, who knows?”

He said ShotSpotter could eliminate the minutes needed for the 911 process and help save a gunshot victim’s life. “It could be the difference between life and death.”

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