IMPD wants mobile gunfire detection
While Indianapolis Police officials have not backed a recent proposal for a gunshot detection system, the department is considering a cheaper mobile version of the technology.
At a recent Indianapolis City Council meeting, Councilor Paul Annee, R-District 23, proposed the allocation of $ 730,000 for a gunshot detection system, as well as readers of mobile and static license plates.
It’s a proposal pushed by Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police President Rick Snyder, who previously said technology could immediately begin to “intervene in the violence that is sweeping our city.”
The comments came on June 4, a day after Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett proposed $ 3.3 million for technology upgrades in police service and community programs.
Snyder spoke out against the proposal, calling it a “budding attempt” that “does nothing, nothing to address the urgency of the issue at hand.”
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Indianapolis reported 152 criminal homicides and seven non-criminal homicides for the year on Sunday, most involving firearms. And as of June 18, there had been 317 non-fatal shootings, up from 220 for the same period last year. The updated numbers were not immediately available.
IMPD Deputy Chief Kendale Adams told IndyStar he “doesn’t know how many lives you could save” immediately with gunshot detection technology, noting that it is a tool to respond to an incident after the fact.
That’s not to say that there isn’t potential value in the technology. Supporters say it can improve response times, help gather evidence, and alert officers to gunfire that otherwise would go unreported – all benefits Adams acknowledged.
But in response to Annee’s proposed amendment to the $ 3.3 million package at the July 14 board meeting, Adams said the technology “would not be financially responsible.” ShotSpotter, a leading gunshot detection system that the IMPD has consulted in the past, declined to provide IndyStar with cost estimates, but Adams said the facility to cover an area of three square miles with sensors would cost around $ 250,000, plus an additional $ 200,000 per year for maintenance. .
“If you had, say, three or four hotspots, you envisioned… maybe $ 600,000 or more, maybe close to a million dollars that you’ll need per year,” Adams said.
Annee’s proposed amendment failed 20-5 according to party lines, but Adams told IndyStar the department hopes to secure grants for small trailers equipped with gunshot detection technology. The difference? It is much cheaper and allows mobility.
But mobile units would cover smaller areas, and like ShotSpotter or any other police technology, its success largely depends on how it is used.
What is gunshot detection technology?
Gunshot detection technology like ShotSpotter uses sensors to quickly notify police when and where a gunshot is detected. It does this by using multiple sensors attached to tall structures – such as roofs of buildings or streetlights – to determine the precise location of the shot.
In the case of ShotSpotter, the shot alert is sent to an incident center and is examined by trained personnel to verify if the sound was in fact a shot and not, for example, a fire. artifice. The alert is then sent to the police, a process that in total would take a minute or less.
In email responses to IndyStar’s questions, ShotSpotter said the technology enables a rapid response that can “save lives, find more evidence, and build community trust.” According to ShotSpotter, due to alerts, 101 victims of gun violence were found and assisted by police in Oakland, Calif., In 2020. None of these shootings were reported to 911, according to ShotSpotter.
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The company also said that “police have a significantly higher success rate in finding cartridge cases, which is important evidence in an investigation.”
A study by the Urban Institute found that when looking specifically at homicides involving a firearm, the number of cases in which shell casings were recovered rose from 50% to 88.9% in three cities using ShotSpotter.
Adams said the technology has the most potential when paired with surveillance cameras and license plate readers. If a gunshot is detected, police could use cameras and license plate readers to identify suspects or their vehicles.
“So now it allows our officers to be more focused on the laser, instead of just running towards the shots,” Adams said.
Research shows mixed results
Even with some of the potential benefits, Adams questions the effectiveness of the technology, pointing to a report from the MacArthur Justice Center that found that between July 1, 2019 and April 14, 2021, 89% of ShotSpotter deployments in Chicago “Did not reveal any firearms. -related crime “and 86% did not lead to any report of crime. The center describes itself as a law firm dedicated to” the fight against injustice in the criminal justice system through litigation.
Earlier this year, MacArthur filed a brief in support of an accused charged with murder in Cook County, Illinois. The group asked a judge to determine whether the evidence “produced by this system (ShotSpotter) is reliable enough” to be allowed in court and questioned the 97% accuracy rate touted by the company.
ShotSpotter said the MacArthur report “drew the wrong conclusions” based on incomplete data and that a review commissioned by the company supported its claims of accuracy.
Another report, released by the Policing Project at New York University Law School, which examined the impact of ShotSpotter in St. Louis County, Missouri, found that “the total number of arrests has not changed by the implementation of ShotSpotter “. Likewise, the Urban Institute study found no significant change in arrests in the three cities using ShotSpotter.
On crime prevention, Nancy La Vigne, one of the authors of the Urban Institute study and executive director of the Council on Criminal Justice’s Policing Task Force, said he didn’t there was not much evidence of this.
“A lot of things should be put in place for this to be effective” in preventing crime, La Vigne said.
Snyder said for any prevention effort to work, there has to be intervention.
“What everyone is trained to do is stop the bleeding before they do anything else,” Snyder said. “Because if you don’t stop the person from bleeding, they will die, and any further medical treatment means nothing at this point.”
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La Vigne and his study co-authors recommended that departments have clear policies on how agents respond to bullet technology alerts and how the information gathered is used.
“Don’t invest unless you have the resources to train your agents to respond to calls differently, to approach investigations after alerts differently,” said La Vigne.
Departments should also ensure they have the capacity to respond to alerts and use data from technology.
“We have learned that one of the hardest things is having the resources, the human resources and sometimes even the IT infrastructure to actually analyze all the wonderful data produced by gunshot detection technology,” he said. declared La Vigne.
Snyder said the city’s existing Crime Gun Intelligence Center – a collaboration between local and federal police departments to target those who use illegal firearms – would work well with gunshot detection technology.
Mobile gunfire detection
Adams said the ministry had requested $ 123,000 in grants for two small mobile trailers that would include gunshot detection technology. It’s a cheaper option that Adams says would allow technology to evolve with crime trends. The ministry has discussed the options with a company called Compass Security Solutions.
“It’s the mobility factor that really makes the difference,” said Nathan Kustes, vice president of Compass Security Solutions. “If you have a hotspot, the ability to take a trailer and deploy it in an hour or two, then have your eyes and ears on a particular site in a short period of time is essential for the police department. . ”
But the technology is supposed to cover a few blocks instead of a few square kilometers.
“We can actually do the same thing (like ShotSpotter) with trailers, but we should strategically place the trailers and certain positions to make that happen,” Kustes said. “So what we usually do with the trailers themselves is we try to cover a few blocks in a really bad area.”
Adams said the department hopes to order the mobile units by the end of the year.
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Snyder said he supported the mobile units and that they would be in line with the kind of technology he requested. Still, he said, static gun detection systems like ShotSpotter are an important piece of the puzzle.
“Where you use the static system is in known geographies that should have this advanced level of technology. An example would be Mile Square in downtown Indianapolis,” Snyder said. “There is absolutely no good reason not to have Mile Square, which has some of the city’s most critical infrastructure, covered by gun technology, license plate reader technology and public security cameras. “