Seattle officials are considering whether to try automatic gunshot-locator technology to help reduce gun violence.
Seattle police may work with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to test an automatic gunshot-locator system in the city.
As part of a partnership with the Seattle Police Department (SPD) aimed at reducing gun violence, the ATF’s Seattle field division requested money to install and operate such a system across one square mile, according to a memo to Seattle City Council President Tim Burgess from SPD Chief Operating Officer Brian Maxey.
The division was recently awarded the money and needs the department’s cooperation to proceed, Maxey said Thursday at a meeting of the council’s public-safety committee.
City leaders have discussed for some time the potential use of automatic gunshot-locator technology, which uses microphones and sensors mounted overhead in neighborhoods to identify shots and triangulate their location. Last year, public-safety committee Chairman Bruce Harrell pushed for city funds in 2015 to immediately deploy a locator system.
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But council members voted to hold off after Burgess expressed skepticism about the technology’s usefulness. They instructed the Police Department to conduct an assessment of locator systems and tied the release of $250,000 in police money to the review.
Maxey’s Dec. 4 memo is SPD’s response to the council.
The memo says research shows that locator systems can identify random gunshots and where they came from, and that the systems help police get to the scenes faster than “traditional citizen reporting and dispatching methods.”
The memo says research shows the locator systems work best when paired with cameras. It also says the Police Department is aware of privacy and community concerns and recognizes any deployment would need to comply with city law and council oversight. The memo adds that the community should have a say in where and how a system is installed.
The memo notes that the highest concentrations of shots-fired incidents in Seattle are in the Central District and Rainier Valley.
“If the privacy concerns can be addressed and property ameliorated … deployment of (a locator system) could provide a valuable resource to officers investigating shots-fired incidents,” the SPD memo says, calling a joint effort with the ATF a cost-effective way to test the technology.
Maxey, Burgess and Harrell stressed Thursday that the technology won’t be installed before the issue comes back to the council next year for consideration.
The memo doesn’t say how much money Seattle’s ATF division will have for a potential pilot program.
A spokesman for the ATF’s Seattle office didn’t immediately return a request for comment Thursday.