Has Gunshot-Detection System Misfired As Effective Weapon Against Violent Crime?

WNYC | August 15, 2013 | More Issues, Politics, Social
Newark's much-touted initiative results in few arrests, although Mayor Cory Booker asserts it also serves as deterrent.

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An electronic surveillance device touted by Mayor Cory Booker as a key to reducing violent crime in Newark is apparently not quite the technological miracle it was made out to be.

The gunshot-detection system, called ShotSpotter, basically consists of special microphones that have been placed at strategic locations in high-crime sections of the city. The devices isolate the sounds of gunfire and send a signal to police when shots are fired.

Booker said the combination of sensors and surveillance cameras would help police find the people who fire guns in the city. “You can actually capture the perpetrators in their actions,” he announced.

But police Sgt. Marvin Carpenter, who oversees the gunshot detection system in Newark, says that has not happened often.

“When we get there, usually the perp is not in the area,” he said. In the last three years, Newark’s gunshot-detection sensors in Newark went off 3,632 times, but just 17 shooters were arrested at the scene.

WNYC/NJPR, a partner of NJ Spotlight, reports on the effectiveness of ShotSpotter and whether it has proven to be worth the investment of government money and police manpower.