The High-Tech Device Being Used By Cities To Fight Crime

States today have found themselves in the position of needing to do more to stem the violence in their cities, and many of them are looking to high-tech devices to do it. The AI technology from ShotSpotter Inc. has gotten a nod from cities like Chicago, Detroit, New York and Pittsburgh. ShotSpotter claims it can identify whether or not a gunshot was fired in an area in order to dispatch law enforcement. Researchers, however, say not so fast. They have concerns about its effectiveness, reliability, privacy and equity. The company has partnered with a variety of cities and is currently being used in more than 130 cities and law enforcement agencies across the nation. While the company claims a 97% accuracy, the MacArthur Justice Center, a Chicago-based civil rights organization, studied over 40,000 dispatches in a 2-year period in Chicago and found that 89% of dispatches resulted in no gun-related crime, and 86% resulted in no crime at all. However, in April 2017, ShotSpotter was able to locate mass-shooter Kori Ali Muhammad, enabling the Rochester Police Department in New York to apprehend him within minutes. ShotSpotter’s gunshot detection system utilizes a series of sensors to capture loud, impulsive sounds. When those sounds are identified, sensors send data to a pair of algorithms responsible for identifying a location and determining if the event can be classified as potential gunfire. Although it’s designed to be a an investigative tool for police, it has also been used as evidence in trials, leading to criticism about privacy and the device’s effectiveness beyond its primary purpose.