City tries again for gunfire-detection system


(Click for full-size PDF version)

That map shows confirmed shots-fired incidents around the city so far this year. We obtained it from Mayor Ed Murray‘s office in connection with this afternoon’s announcement that the city is again seeking “acoustic gunshot detection.” This comes four years after his predecessor announced a plan to budget for a gunfire-detection system – a plan that never came to fruition. Back then, part of West Seattle was suggested as ripe for such a system; today’s announcement focused more on other areas of the city including South Park – you can see the map above includes clusters there and in North Delridge.

The mayor was joined by Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole in making the announcement on Gun Violence Awareness Day. The announcement also says he will “work with the Seattle City Council to require that all surplus firearms from the Seattle Police Department are only sold to other law enforcement agencies.”

Regarding the potential detection technology, the announcement says:

Gunshot locators actively listen for gunshots and detect the exact location where guns are fired. Unlike reports from nearby residents who may be uncertain, these systems’ advanced technology reliably report when and where the shots were fired. A video camera attached to the system is activated to capture the incident. Law enforcement authorities are notified immediately and a police officer can be dispatched to the vicinity without delay. …

… Community feedback will be critical to designing the system, deciding where it is deployed, and defining how it functions. Working with the community, the City will to use its race and social justice toolkit during the assessment of the pilot program. The City will engage with civil liberties advocates and ensure that it complies with the City’s existing privacy policy.

A federal grant would pay for a pilot system, says the announcement, which you can read in its entirety here. It also says that while the number of confirmed shots-fired incidents to date this year is smaller than last year – 144 this year, 154 a year earlier – they’re deadlier, with five shooting deaths this year, two last year.

The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has issued a Request for Proposals to gather interest from potential contractors who could construct the system. The city says the system would be paid for with a federal grant.

32 Replies to "City tries again for gunfire-detection system"

  • Worksmoothly June 2, 2016 (2:33 pm)

    I should have never left Ballard for West Seattle.

    • Qbert June 2, 2016 (11:08 pm)

      But you wouldn’t have if you could have afforded it.. Right?

  • Chuck June 2, 2016 (4:45 pm)

    Yeah, that is a pretty sobering graphic. Ballard comes out looking good, but in no way are they immune from gun violence or gangs or whatever is driving this statistical imbalance. You’re every bit as safe in W. Seattle. Or unsafe, if that’s how you choose to look at it.

  • quiz June 2, 2016 (4:47 pm)

    Make Magnolia and Ballard seem sooooooo boring.

    • Seattlite June 2, 2016 (8:41 pm)

      Really?  I would say it makes Ballard and Magnolia seem  soooooooooooooo safe.

      • Qbert June 2, 2016 (11:07 pm)

        Part of the reason hoods n and nw of the canal are sooooooooo expensive…

        • Seattlite June 3, 2016 (8:56 am)

          Most of the reason is politics and feckless leaders who are not doing their jobs of protecting communities.  SPDs hands are tied by DOJ’s policies which also adds to unsafe streets for innocent victims.  It should not matter about the neighborhoods’ level of expense…everyone deserves to be safe.

      • quiz June 3, 2016 (10:37 am)

        I was making a joke.

  • Jim Clark June 2, 2016 (5:02 pm)

    So they will get the grant to start it off then we  the taxpayers will be asked to add another tax.

    • WSB June 2, 2016 (7:03 pm)

      The mayor has said he’s not pursuing a public-safety levy.

      • Rick June 3, 2016 (6:20 am)

        Well,if he says so…

  • Alki Resident June 2, 2016 (10:41 pm)

    I am 100% for the gunshot locator system.  My kitchen window was shot out and my garage door has 2 recent bullet holes.

  • B June 2, 2016 (11:53 pm)

    For all the attention Alki gets, the map sure does highlight that perhaps it’s not the most important place for SPD to hang out all day.

    I wonder if they have times for these shots so you could do more analysis, or if SPD has any data scientists working that line. 

    • WSB June 3, 2016 (12:17 am)

      The news release includes the mention that Friday and Saturday nights are the most common times for gunfire in the city, overall. I know SPD does a lot of analysis but in terms of the granular data being available to anyone, one problem I’ve noticed lately is that there is not a consistent call classification – in terms of what’s visible to the public – for gunfire. One recent confirmed case here was “person with a gun.” Then there’s “property damage.” I’ve seen a couple with shell casings still get categorized as “noise disturbance.” Etc. SPD lately also has not been consistent about putting “SeaStat” slide decks online after the meetings that were much-touted earlier in the year as downtown data reviews. Still, if I had my druthers, I’d rather see them get back to making some narratives available online because those tell us more about what was found, what might have happened … and it’s still difficult to try to get those on any sort of a timely basis.

    • newnative June 3, 2016 (11:08 am)

      There is more to crime and safety than guns.  Some recent disturbances particular to Alki are groups engaging in fighting, stabbings, property damage.  Not to mention safety issues in general like water rescues that seem to be occurring.  

  • they June 3, 2016 (5:15 am)

    seems like most of these shooters have been in the system already so finding more ways to get them back seems like a waste of resources. Lets focus on keeping them in the system from the first sign of trouble. I support gun rights but if you break gun laws it should be bye, bye for serious time. 

  • Andy June 3, 2016 (5:44 am)

    The police know who many, if not most,  of these shooters are. Take the cuffs off of the police and let them do their job.  

  • TheKing June 3, 2016 (5:50 am)

    This type of tech is the double edged sword. While the primary intention is to help police respond, it also can be in violation of your privacy. This technology uses microphones (and now cameras) to pick up the gunshot or shots, giving police a surprisingly accurate location. The problem is the microphones can also pick up conversation. The fourth amendment doesn’t mean much these days anyway I guess. 

  • Willistheclown June 3, 2016 (6:37 am)

    West Seattle needs this.

    Every neighborhood deos

    Somehow we need to track these types of things

    Together we can reduce gun violence

    Out side the box thinking will also help

    Forever together, I say!

    3 people is too many

    5 is way too many

    think people

    help others and they will help you!

  • canton June 3, 2016 (7:18 am)

    They need to start with fixing the laws first. What good is it, for example the delridge shooter caught at a bus stop, when the perp shoots illegally possessed gun and has enough drug money on him to take care of bail?

  • Dr. Bob June 3, 2016 (10:51 am)

    Gunfire detection system….

    Eyeroll.

    Of course we are and will be paying for it.

    And really, how does this solve a problem?

    What about silencers on guns?

    Seems to me that this system is nothing more than apparatus that a police state may use to aid in enforcing the police state.

    What about cameras and mics trained on drunk drivers (many  innocent people perish every year as a result of drunk drivers)?

    Or how about the folks who seemingly can’t drive without their smartphone in one hand? Fools zipping about too often unaware of what is around them, because, well, it is all about them.

    Good grief.

    • bill bob June 3, 2016 (12:08 pm)

      The more data you can acquire, the more data you have to solve a problem. I tend to agree with you, however. I don’t need more police, just better people.

      We have inadvertently created a violent culture that has little respect for anything outside of our immediate “bubble”. A government’s fastest way to curb violence issues is to treat the symptoms, not the root cause. How would you squash the root cause of uprising of gang violence? Prison does not work for most of these people. What would u do?

    • Kevin June 3, 2016 (12:53 pm)

      Do you know how hard it is to get a surpressor/silencer? Even trying to find one off the street, they’re extremely hard to get. I’m guessing you watch too many movies and think that they’re around everywhere.

      Also–please do tell, since you obviously think that these are a waste. What would you do to prevent the continual string of shootings? This system is already in place in other major cities and these same cities have shown improvement.

  • dsa June 3, 2016 (11:57 am)

    Do it already,  These gun shootings have to stop somehow.

  • wetone June 3, 2016 (12:00 pm)

    This system will have little effect on the slow down or safety of anyone. Results have proven this and if one does some research on this type of system it has many flaws. Only winners as usual will be the people that provide services to city $$$$.  Until court system changes it’s way’s and current laws are enforced I expect things only to get worse in this city and continue sliding down hill.  It is just another scare tactic/band-aid from the mayor along with trying to push the use of using camera/surveillance system city spent millions on a few years ago. To bad mayor doesn’t just spend money on hiring more officers, letting them enforce current Seattle laws. Evidently mayor and others just think everything can be controlled from a keyboard…………. not

  • Roxy June 3, 2016 (12:00 pm)

    We don’t need this, Will. Our community is actively involved in looking after each other. Another layer of surveillance that is responsive will not protect you from what already happened. This is another step toward erosion of the 4th amendment – The King is correct. Innocent folks are prosecuted… check out the innocence project.

  • Chuck June 3, 2016 (12:16 pm)

    Some great comments in this thread. The more I reflect on it, the less I think this is a good idea. It is just so reactionary and invasive, as other point out. No, I’d much prefer more cops on the streets and in patrol cars, thank you. Research has already established that based on population alone, Seattle is woefully understaffed with its police force. I know our mayor loves his technology and anything anti-gun (taxing guns has certainly made ME feel safer–not…), but how about he does something truly progressive like getting the bodies needed to serve the people? Alas, I have zero confidence in our city council to do anything but look for more bandaids. And this is certainly a bandaid. 

    • Anon June 3, 2016 (12:55 pm)

      Yeah… let’s just go to the police store and pick up some more police for the city.

      The city is continually hiring cops and has been really advertising their open positions, but there just aren’t enough qualified and experienced applicants.

  • Chuck June 3, 2016 (2:53 pm)

    To Anon: That may be the case currently, but a (more) competitive wage enabling the cops who serve us to actually afford to live here would be a good start. So yeah, make real changes instead of taking the low (least expensive) road. Our mayor likes shortcuts that fit his personal ideals. Fact.

  • TheKing June 3, 2016 (3:20 pm)

    Until our city’s drug problem is put front and center, the crimes of all degrees will get worse before better. The shootings, break ins, theft etc. boil down to drug gangs turf, deals gone bad, addicts looking for something to steal to get more drugs etc. The SPD has made some huge busts in recent years but I feel with the elected officials wanting “safe spaces” for drug users to do their drugs it’s taking steps backwards from the solution. Call me crazy but I thought heroin and cocaine were illegal. 

  • wetone June 3, 2016 (3:27 pm)

    I think it’s going to hard to find good candidates for police officers in this city for many reasons but the biggest reason I believe is the politics in Seattle. How can one go to work daily or nightly and take the crap our SPD officers are expected to take  ?  and just smile and walk away. Whether being spit on, cussed at, pushed and bullied around, little support from so many whether upper management or outsiders.  Hard to find a normal person that would want job with all those great benefits no matter what the salary is. There’s many more places to work in law enforcement through out the NW that are much better supported…….     

  • Chuck June 4, 2016 (12:38 am)

    WetOne–well said.

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