NYPD To Use Audio Sensors To Locate Shootings In Real Time

The ShotSpotter system can send alerts to police in real time. Other police departments, though, have had mixed experiences with the system.

Shannon Stapleton / Reuters

A display of the NYPD ShotSpotter gunfire-detection system is seen in New York March 16, 2015.

NEW YORK — The New York Police Department on Monday announced that it will implement a pilot program to test technology designed to record and locate the source of gunshots in real time.

The technology, known as ShotSpotter, deploys audio sensors in high-crime areas. The sensors record the sound of gunshots and then triangulate the location of the incident, allowing police to respond quickly.

"Gunshot detection technology like ShotSpotter will add yet another tool to the NYPD's technological crime fighting capabilities," said NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton. "It will enable us to respond to shooting incidents in a more timely manner, and provide us with the ability to help victims, solve crimes and apprehend dangerous suspects more quickly."

Jessica Tisch, the NYPD deputy commissioner for information technology, said that the ShotSpotter sensors are able to pinpoint the location of a gunshot within 25 meters and can differentiate the sound of guns firing from fireworks and other similar noises.

The pilot program, which police said cost about $1.4 million, became operational in parts of the Bronx on Sunday night, and will eventually be expanded to sections of Brooklyn. After one year, the city will decide whether to expand it to the rest of the city.

Speaking with Bratton at a news conference, Mayor Bill de Blasio praised the initiative, saying it will help end the "sad soundtrack" of gunshots that punctuates the lives of many lower-income an minority residents. Public Advocate Letitia James also expressed her support for the initiative.

But the experience of nearby police departments has not been entirely positive. A recent review of ShotSpotter data used by police in Suffolk County, Long Island, showed that the system provided false alarms in 93% of the cases, Newsday reported.

ShotSpotter is a patented system owned by SST Inc., a California company that specializes in law-enforcement technologies. Bratton previously served on the company's board.