It has been considered before, and now Seattle is again thinking about a pilot program.

Gunshot detection technology uses audio sensors

The premise is simple: audio detectors are alerted to, and report the approximate location of gunfire. The company that is at the forefront of this relatively new technology (in the last 15 years) is Sound Thinking, formerly known as ShotSpotter. They rebranded and changed their name earlier this year.

The system uses a network of audio, or acoustic detectors that can respond to the sound of gunfire, and provide a very precise location, sometimes within 60 seconds.

The city has $1.5 million dollars in its budget and is considering a pilot program that would implement the system.  According to Wikipedia and company information, a series of sensors are deployed, usually 20-25 per square mile.

   How does it differentiate from bangs, backfires, and gunfire?

Information from the company indicates gunfire has a very distinct 'crack' sound, as opposed to the thunder or boom of fireworks, in most cases. Car backfires also have different tonalities. The software is 'tuned' to respond to the audio frequencies or 'sounds' emitted specifically by guns, not other loud noises.

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The technology is not without controversy.  As of 2021, it has been used as evidence in 190 court cases but has often been withdrawn when challenged. A 2023 report by the Houston Chronicle newspaper indicated the technology resulted in lower case reports and sometimes longer police response times in certain communities.

The Seattle City Council plans to vote on whether to move forward with the tech.


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