NYPD launching pilot project to detect gunfire

nypd-launching-pilot-project-detect-gunfire
Bill Bratton. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig )
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The NYPD is moving closer to installing rooftop sensors throughout the city to detect gunfire in an effort to cut down on shootings, which have recently spiked in New York City.

The department has announced a pilot project with a California company called ShotSpotter Inc. to install the technology to determine the location of gunshots—something Mayor Bill de Blasio promised when he ran last year.

A notice about the initiative was printed in Monday's edition of the City Record. It describes the program as a "two-year demonstration project covering up to 15 square miles of New York City."

ShotSpotter, on whose board police commissioner Bill Bratton sat before taking the NYPD job in January, creates the detection devices that would be mounted on rooftops and other high locations throughout the city.

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"The proposed system would use specifically placed microphones to pinpoint, in seconds, the precise location of gunfire within the coverage areas. The system will also include an adjudication capability in which analysts will listen to each recorded alert and screen out false positives, such as fireworks," the contract notice states. "The purpose of the system is to both detect and to deter gunfire activity, including drug-related and 'celebratory' gunfire that may terrorize communities or end in tragic deaths."

The notice also says ShotSpotter uses technology that's different "from other such systems that have been tried unsuccessfully in the past by the NYPD."

The sensors use triangulation to determine the exact location of gunshots. Analysts will be "stationed at a round-the-clock" adjudication center to listen to the sounds that prompted each alert," according to the notice.

The NYPD says that will help reduce the number of false positives—something that has plagued similar efforts in other citie.

The program will cost $1.5 million—money already in the NYPD's Fiscal Year 2015 budget, a City Hall spokeswoman said. She was not able to say exactly how many microphones will be purchased or where they will be placed.

The contract advisory notes that if the system is successful, the NYPD will proceed with a competitive bidding process for a bigger detection system.

Speaking at a City Council hearing in May, Bratton called the detectors "extraordinarily effective. … The best systems are those that you can tie in with your camera systems. You not only get recording of the gunshots, but you get the camera activation right away."

The City Record notice makes no mention of connecting the sensors to cameras.

"This is the type of new and innovative technology that can be instrumental in aiding efforts to reduce the number of shootings and save lives in communities that have been hot spots of gun violence," said City Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson, who chairs the public safety committee.

As of July 6, shootings were up in the city—562 so far this year compared to 514 during the same period in 2013. Murders, however, have dropped during that time frame from 169 in 2013 to 153 this year.

CORRECTION: The original version of this story had City Hall putting the cost of the program at $500,000—the original amount and the number provided to Capital on Monday by the mayor's press office. The press office clarified on Tuesday that the projected price tag recently went up to $1.5 million because plans for the initiative were expanded and the police department identified an extra cost of $1 million.