Gunshot-Detection System Sought for Seattle Neighborhoods

Frequent shootings has the mayor and other community advocates proposing a one-year pilot project to test gunshot-locator technology.

SEATTLE – Frequent shootings in this city’s Rainier Beach and Central District neighborhoods have city officials and concerned residents advocating for the adoption of a gunshot-detection system.

Seattle’s mayor, police chief, City Council members and a mother of fifth-graders appeared at a press conference on Thursday to push for a one-year pilot project to test a gunshot-detection system in Rainier Valley and Central District.

During the press conference outside the Rainier Beach Community Center, Keisha Scott, the mother of 11-year-old twins, said she is considering pulling her sons out of South Shore PK-8 School on South Henderson Street because of multiple shootings. Last fall, shots were fired as her boys’ class returned to the school from a “walking field trip,” increasing her concerns about stray bullets, the Seattle Times reported.

Students have had to shelter in place six times since March, she said, and all of the shootings have “rattled me, my husband and my baby boys.”

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The acoustic gunshot-locator technology uses microphones, sensors and security cameras mounted overhead to identify shots and triangulate the location of gunfire. Mayor Ed Murray said the technology will allow police to respond to reports of shots fired even before 911 is called. Video surveillance cameras can zoom in on individuals and car license plates, increasing the odds of identifying and arresting perpetrators, he said.

Since the start of the year, according to city officials, there have been 144 reports of gunshots fired, leading to five deaths and 24 people wounded. The mayor said the majority of victims are young African Americans.

The mayor and City Council are already engaging in a series of community dialogues to determine which neighborhoods would be willing to accept the technology, according to the newspaper. There is no launch date yet and the City Council will need to enact legislation before the gunshot detectors can be deployed.

The pilot project will be funded by a nearly $1 million grant obtained by the Seattle office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which has so far received proposals from three vendors, said Scott Lindsay, a public-safety adviser.

Council President Bruce Harrell said the issue of gun violence is personal to him: His daughter was in the same class as 17-year-old Robert Robinson Jr., a Cleveland High School senior who was fatally shot on a Beacon Hill street corner in March 2015.

Harrell cited a Brookings Institution study that found only 12% of gunshots were reported to police in Washington, D.C. He said the 70 or so cities already using the acoustic and camera equipment have seen a 25% to 35% reduction in gun crimes.

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