Police now using gunfire spotting technology to analyze crime in real time

KC police now have new technology that shows them where gunshots came from. When a shot is fired, notice goes out almost immediately to computers in police cars. This screenshot supplied by the company that makes the devices shows the information immediately available to officers. Photo courtesy ShotSpotter.

Posted by Joe Lambe

“Reports of shots fired,” is a common enough dispatch call to officers but as of yesterday Kansas City police will often know about gunfire without those reports.

A new gunshot detection system pinpoints shots fired within a 3.55-mile swath of the urban core.

The ShotSpotter system can also light up computer screens in police cruisers with any history of gunfire at the address, how many shots, how often – critical information to officers, prosecutors and crime analysts.

It will allow a faster police response to assist any wounded victims, pursue shooters, work with citizens to get information and help police engage with the community, Police Chief Darryl Forte said last week.

Police will not reveal where the inconspicuous sensors are but say they cover part of the Kansas City Transportation Authority’s Troost Max bus route and the Green Impact Zone.

The system is a partnership between the police and the KCATA funded for five years by a $720,000 federal grant.

The system also allows police to see a history of other gunshots fired in the area, helping them analyze crime and supporting prosecution.

The sensors send gunfire sounds to operations at ShotSpotter in California where acoustics experts determine if it is gunfire. If so, dispatchers and police in Kansas City then see the location on a monitor in an overall process that they say takes a minute or less.

The company says the system is used in more than 70 other cities nationwide and is needed partly because a study shows that 80 percent of illegal gunfire goes unreported by citizens.

Kansas City police say they hope the quick response to shooting will increase citizen cooperation in fighting crime, which Forte has emphasized since he became chief a year ago.