Plainfield, New Jersey is yet another community to install gunshot detectors. I don’t honestly have much of a problem with this technology, as if I have to fire a gun within a city’s limits, I want the police showing up quickly. But does it actually work? I’ve yet to hear these systems revolutionizing police work, and their deployment, as best I can tell, has been pretty limited. New Jersey law enforcement seems to be keen on them, however. My guess is the system probably provides a lot of false positives, and doesn’t buy you much in terms of crime prevention for the cost. Cities would probably do better to spend the money on more police.
UPDATE: Interesting study:
Police response times to technology-generated reports of gunfire wereÂ compared to response times to citizen-generated reports both before andÂ during the test period. For the most part, there was little differenceÂ between response times to technology-generated reports of gunfire duringÂ the test period and response times to citizen-generated reports before theÂ test period. However, the mean response time to citizen-generated reportsÂ of gunfire during the test period (about 30 minutes) was about 30 percentÂ less than the mean response time to technology-generated reports (aboutÂ 45 minutes). Nonetheless, the overall mean response time during the testÂ period (to the technology- and citizen-generated reports combined) wasÂ about 41 minutes, just 2 minutes longer than the mean response timeÂ before the test period (to citizen-generated reports only). ResearchersÂ concluded that using the technology did not change in any substantial wayÂ the speed with which the police responded to reports of gunfire.
There are two possible explanations for this significant increase in policeÂ workloads: First, gunshot detection technology may generate some falseÂ alerts. Given the design of the evaluation and the relatively early stage ofÂ this technology’s development, this first possible explanation could not beÂ explored in more detail. Second, Dallas may have a high rate of unreportedÂ gunfire, at least in the Oak Cliff neighborhood; if so, this finding couldÂ have significant ramifications for future crime analysis and crimeÂ prevention activities that seek to control the random gunfire problem inÂ Dallas.
Given that, it seems to me this technology is a net negative, if it’s not resulting in a better response and is consuming police resources. Yet the conclusion is still relatively positive. But then again, our society likes easy solutions to complex problems, so I guess it’s not surprising.