Seattle may implement gunshot detection technology

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The Seattle Neighborhood Group opposes the technology, fearing it could lead to excessive surveillance in communities of color.

SEATTLE — Seattle police could soon be dispatched to emergency calls thanks to new technology designed to detect gunshots. If approved by city council, the program will establish the region’s “first gunshot detection system”.

Leon Griffin called Rainier Beach in Seattle home for 30 years and he’s seen a thing or two in that time.

“I’ve seen so much going on here in this corner, I could pretty much write a book, I’ve seen so much damn stuff,” Griffin said.

Soon, new technologies could assist Griffin’s watchful eye and could help by sending police resources where they are needed.

The program was described in Mayor Bruce Harrell’s proposed 2023-2024 budget as a $1 million investment in a “gunshot detection system“, in an effort to “respond to the increased armed violence in the city”.

“They can try, but it’s hard to say if it’s going to work, but the only thing they can do is try,” Griffin said.

Although they have yet to announce which company will be hired, ShotSpotter holds a patent for the technology and is currently present in 125 cities nationwide.

The so-called gunshot detection system, developed in the mid-1990s, uses sensors to detect loud noises and, through an algorithm, determines whether it is a firearm. From this moment, the police are dispatched.

In a statement to KING 5, Shot Spotter said the company wouldn’t comment on cities it doesn’t currently operate in, but added that its system “is a critical part of a comprehensive gun crime response strategy that enables a quick and accurate police response to help save the lives of gunshot wound victims and capture vital evidence at the scene.”

In the budget proposal, the city says defenders point to numerous unsolved homicides in the Rainier Beach area of ​​Seattle.

The Seattle Neighborhood Group, a nonprofit working to create safer communities, argues the money could be better spent elsewhere – fearing an overreaction from police responding to a computer and not a human call to the assistance.

“Research has shown that the effects of sniper technology are detrimental to communities of color. It is unreliable and leads to false alarms and conflict within our communities,” said Cathie Willmore of Seattle Neighborhood Group.

ShotSpotter claims a 97% accuracy rate on its website.

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