“ShotSpotters” Detection System Does Sweet FA in Newark Killing

“A man was shot several times and killed outside the clothing store he owns in Newark’s South Ward today, marking the city’s third homicide in as many days,” nj.com reports. “The victim was shot multiple times in the upper torso and head near Bergen Street and Clinton Avenue, according to Detective Hubert Henderson, a Newark Police Department spokesman . . . Officers responded to the scene at 6:15 p.m. after receiving an alert from the ShotSpotters gun detection system and several calls from residents reporting a shooting, Henderson said.” Huh? New Jersey taxpayers shelled out big bucks for the same gunfire detection system that the military uses overseas? Yup. OK, so, why?

I can understand the need to locate a sniper who’s blowing the good guys’ brains out from behind cover and/or at distances that make it really difficult to shoot him with anything less than a helicopter-mounted MV-22. But Newark? How hard is it to find a shooter in Newark?

ShotSpotters’ website explains the need for urban sonic triangulation. Ish.

Real-time gunfire incident alerts have helped improve officer response time, resulting in increased arrests, additional lives saved, and a greater number of illegal weapons removed from our streets. For specific examples, view our customers’ results.

Alrighty then . . .

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA — July 30, 2009— ShotSpotter, Inc., the world leader in gunshot detection and location systems, today announced that 57 gunshot victims have survived life-threatening wounds this year thanks to the timely aid of first responders relying on accurate incident location data provided by ShotSpotter’s GLS technology. ShotSpotter’s GLS accurately detects and locates gunshot incidents within seconds and provides information to dispatchers and first responders in real time, increasing the likelihood of saving lives.

So . . . how do we know that these Heinz-like 57 lives were saved by ShotSpotter? In other words, are we sure that the victims would have, I dunno, bled out if not for the system. You know; ’cause no one would have reported the shooting?

Remember, in the Joisey case above, the po-po received “an alert from the ShotSpotters gun detection system and several calls from residents reporting a shooting” [emphasis added].

Reading further, it’s clear that ShotSpotter is talking-up its response time and the whole pinpoint deal—rather than the fact that a shooting victim would have otherwise been discovered in the morning, Law & Order Criminal Intent style.

According to Beloit Police Department Deputy Chief Norm Jacobs, the ShotSpotter GLS had patrol units and EMS rolling to the scene almost two minutes before the first telephone call. Had officers not received early notification from the ShotSpotter GLS, “she very well could have died on the street.”

Ah. It’s one of those “if one life is saved” deals. One of those arguments where you can’t talk about the most efficient way to spend taxpayer money to achieve a desired result because emotion is more important than logic and what if it was YOUR child bleeding to death on a cold city street in downtown Newark New Jersey?

Of course, the ShotSpotter has to be in place before a shooting to do any good. And no one, not even the manufacturer, claims that the system prevents crime. Which makes you wonder: if the cops know where a crime is going to occur, why don’t they, and I’m thinking out loud here, do something to stop it happening in the first place?

I know that’s a kooky concept, evocative of Phillip K. Dick’s precogs. But look! Here’s a story on TTAG about Detroit’s Police Chief doing exactly that, with dramatic results.

Never mind. ShotSpotter claims that a “40% reduction in homicides” in LA County can be “attributed to ShotSpotter technology.”

So what if that means that the government has deployed a network of microphones that can pinpoint, listen in on and record public conversations? Mics that can automatically switch on cameras at the sound of gunfire or, perhaps, the words “Tea Party” or “Open Carry” or “The National Rifle Association.”

Tin hat off for a mo. The guys at the sharp end of the thin blue line (or something like that) love it!

Deputy Kovac says it’s almost like having a deputy on every corner.

Almost, but not quite. Meanwhile, back in Newark . . .

Henderson said investigators had not identified a motive or suspect in the shooting. The gunfire drew a large crowd of city residents from the nearby Clinton Arms and Oak Brook Square apartments. Residents said the neighborhood is densely populated with young children, and several said they originally feared the victim was a Newark teen.

South Ward Councilman Ras Baraka arrived at the scene shortly after receiving complaints from residents that the victim’s body was left uncovered for nearly an hour. He was told by police there was a problem with the initial emergency services response, which caused the body to remain out in the open.

As they say in the foxtrot business, quick, quick, slow.