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NYPD will use rooftop sensors to pinpoint gunfire and reduce violent shootings

NYPD will use rooftop sensors to pinpoint gunfire and reduce violent shootings

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Shootings are on the rise in New York City, and the NYPD is turning to microphones to help reverse the trend. It's announced plans to install ShotSpotter's gunshot detection systems on rooftops across the city as part of a two-year, $1.5 million pilot program. Up to 15 square miles of the city will be covered by the system, which uses strategically placed acoustic sensors to pinpoint any source of gunfire within just seconds.

"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," read a notice about the ShotSpotter initiative printed in a local paper last week. It will also help the NYPD identify areas where police presence is needed most.

The system can identify where shots were fired within seconds

ShotSpotter's sensors listen for gunfire and can hone in on the specific location of shots using triangulation. Ten sensors can pinpoint the location of a single shot to within 2 feet its origin, the company has said previously. But false alerts have been a concern during deployments in other states, and to weed out soundalikes like fireworks, the NYPD says it will have analysts listening to ShotSpotter's flagged sounds in "round-the-clock" shifts.

Naturally the police department doesn't want anyone finding these things, so it's not revealing how many mic sensors are being purchased or where they'll be located. But if the pilot program proves effective at halting the spike in gun violence, the city is likely to expand its investment in ShotSpotter's technology. Police commissioner Bill Bratton sat on the company's board before filling the NYPD's top role under Mayor Bill de Blasio. From the sounds of it, Bratton would ultimately like to pair ShotSpotter with the city's broad network of surveillance cameras for a one-two punch against shootings. "You not only get recording of the gunshots, but you get the camera activation right away," he said in May. Bratton has also expressed interest in dispatching drones to keep watch over crime hotspots and to assist FDNY in assessing the severity of fires in the city.