Seattle could implement gunshot detection tech

Seattle community groups oppose the technology, fearing it would lead to over-regulation in communities of color.

SEATTLE — Seattle police will soon be dispatched to emergency calls with new technology designed to detect gunfire. If approved by the city council, the plan would create the “first gunshot detection system” in the area.

Leon Griffin has called Seattle’s Rainier Beach home for 30 years, and he’s seen a thing or two in that time.

“I’ve seen so much happening in this corner that I could almost write a book where I’ve seen so many damn things,” Griffin said.

Soon, new technology could assist Griffin’s vigilance and could help by sending police resources where needed.

The plan, outlined in Mayor Bruce Harrell’s proposed 2023-2024 budget as a million-dollar investment in a “gun detection system,” aims to “address the city’s increased gun violence.”

“They can try, but it’s hard to say if it’s going to work, but the only thing they can do is try,” Griffin said.

While they haven’t announced the companies they’ll be signing, ShotSpotter has patents on the technology and is currently operating in 125 cities across the country.

The so-called gunshot detection system, developed in the mid-1990s, uses sensors to detect a loud noise and algorithmically determines if it is a firearm. Since then, police have been dispatched.

In a statement to KING 5, Shot Spotter said the company would not comment on cities in which they do not currently operate, but added that its system “is a key part of a comprehensive gun crime response strategy that enables Let the police respond quickly and accurately to help. Save the lives of gunshot victims and capture critical evidence at the scene.”

In the budget proposal, the city said advocates pointed to the many unsolved homicides in Seattle’s Rainier Beach area.

The Seattle Community Organization, a nonprofit dedicated to creating safer communities, argues that the money is better spent elsewhere — worried about police overreacting to computers, rather than human calls for help.

“Research shows that the impact of shooting technology is harming people of color. It’s unreliable and leads to false alarms and conflict within our community,” said Cathy Wilmore of the Seattle Community Group.

ShotSpotter claims 97% accuracy on its website.

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