The Miami-Dade County Police Department (MDPD) discontinued use of ShotSpotter, a police technology that detects the sound of gunshots through sensors, after an unsuccessful pilot trial in 2013. On Sept. 20, MDPD announced it would be spending at least $2.6 million to deploy the technology once again.
ShotSpotter first hit the streets of Miami a few years ago during the police department’s pilot program. Depending on how useful the department finds ShotSpotter over the next five years, it will renew the system for another $3 million. Commander Jose Rivero joined the force after the initial pilot was over, but said that some obstacles for the program included a relatively small testing area and a dearth of proper resources for the officers to respond to the tech.
“Historically, it did not do well,” Rivero said. “This time around, we’re leveraging different technology.”
ShotSpotter sensors pick up noises that sound like gunshots. Within 60 seconds, the system sends the sound to a team of audiologists, who analyze it and determine whether it was a gunshot or something that sounds like a gunshot, such as a backfiring car. If the team of audiologists determines the sound is a gunshot, they notify the police.
One concern among civilians is whether any other information will be recorded with the gunshot, according to Rivero. ShotSpotter picks up the six seconds of noise surrounding the initial sound that activates the sensor. If someone screams or speaks during that six seconds, their voices will be recorded and submitted to the audiologists along with the shot noise. Although suspects may flee the scene before the police arrive, the officers will be able to analyze the bullet casings left behind.
“We may not solve the crime today, but every casing is a piece of a puzzle,” Rivero said. “Today we collect a casing, tomorrow we may collect a round. All we’re trying to do is have as many pieces as possible.”
MDPD’s goal is to deploy the sensors at the end of 2016, according to Rivero. ShotSpotter dictates how many sensors a department will need based on the county’s topography. Rivero said he estimates MDPD will receive between 160 and 180 sensors. In addition to this technology, MDPD is introducing license plate readers, surveillance cameras, and devices that can identify the weapons from which certain casings came. The department is also providing a phone application called Community on Patrol (COP), through which people can submit information to the police anonymously.
Rivero also serves at MDPD’s Real Time Crime Center (RTCC), which was not established at the time of the department’s previous experience with ShotSpotter. Officers monitor the RTCC 24/7, and report to scenes indicated by ShotSpotter.
“We happen to be the largest police department in the southeastern United States,” Rivero said. “As such, the department recognized it needed to leverage technologies.”