David Hardy found an interesting article by the Washington Post, who reports on the use of strategically-located “ShotSpotter” devices which can automatically detect and localize gunshots being fired within an area (Washington DC, in this case). These devices have been installed in roughly one-third of the District.
From the Post,
About 39,000 separate incidents of gunfire [over the last 8 years -AZR] have been documented by ShotSpotter’s unseen web of at least 300 acoustic sensors across 20 square miles of the city, according to an analysis by The Washington Post. The data, obtained through a public-records request, offer an unprecedented view of gun crime in a city where shooting a firearm is illegal in virtually all circumstances.
The gunfire logged by ShotSpotter overshadows the number of officially reported felony gun crimes by more than 2 to 1. More than one-half of the incidents detected by the network have involved multiple rounds of gunfire. In 2009 alone, ShotSpotter captured more than 9,000 incidents of gunfire.
That sounds really interesting, and they probably get a lot of cool data from it. If it works as advertised (that is, it only listens for gunshots and isn’t snooping on conversations and whatnot), ShotSpotter seems like a powerful tool for crime detection and public safety.
In the comments section of the article, user Wiggan has an interesting proposal:
Now the follow up piece should develop a similar map for registered gun owners, as the District requires them to be fingerprinted and registered at their local police stations.
The plot I would like to see would be an overlay between registered gun owners and shooting density. 2nd amendment advocates say carry permits reduce crime. Gun control advocates say gun ownership contributes to crime. Here we could have an objective test to see who is right.
I for one would be highly interested in seeing such a map. While it might not be completely conclusive, it’d certainly provide fascinating insight.
Another commenter inquires if the ShotSpotter sensors are connected to surveilance cameras operated by the police. While CCTV can provide useful information in regards to crime (particularly if they are able to focus in on an area where shots were just fired, or are placed strategically based on ShotSpotter data), I have some reservations in regards to privacy rights. Still, with proper privacy protections in place, such a system could be a valuable crime-fighting system.