(CBS) — It sounds like something out of NCIS: sensors that detect gun shots and alert the police to their exact locations.
As Kris van Cleave reports from Camden, N.J., the ShotSpotter technology is real and making a difference in a community with a long history of gun violence.
ShotSpotter comprises a series of microphones set up around the city that are designed to detect the sound of a gunshot and pinpoint its location to within 10 feet – then instantly alert the police.
“It helps us catching guys and it helps us with officer safety,” said Camden County police chief Orlando Cuevas. “Now these officers are not traveling blindly into an area where a gunshot is.”
When city police started using ShotSpotter in 2012, they discovered that 38 percent of gunshots in one neighborhood weren’t being reported. As Ralph Clark, ShotSpotter president and CEO told CBS News, “90 percent of the time people don’t call 911 when they hear gunshots, particularly the most afflicted communities that hear it all the time.”
Officials won’t release exactly where the sensors are placed, but they are being hidden in buildings and on rooftops of notoriously rough neighborhoods. And it seems to be working. Cuevas said that the average response time to gunshots has gone from over nine minutes to under 30 seconds where the SpotShotter is picking up sound.
Richard Verticelli, a 17-year veteran of the Camden County Police Department, says it’s harder to commit and get away with gun violence in the city than it was five or ten years ago. The city credits ShotSpotter, used with its crime cameras, for helping cut the number of shootings and homicides in half over the last two years.
The technology costs between $60,000 $100,000 a year per square mile. It’s maker and police say it is not designed record conversations.
Police in 22 states including Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan and Washington are now using it.