Cambridge Police Rolling Out Gunshot-Detecting Technology

Officers will field questions about their new ShotSpotter system during an online Q&A.

Photo via Cambridge Police

Photo via Cambridge Police

Cambridge Police are turning to social media to answer questions about new equipment they’re installing on the city’s streets that can detect and pinpoint the precise location of a gunshot within 60 seconds of a firearm going off.

On Monday at 7 p.m., Deputy Superintendent Stephen Ahern will jump behind the keyboard for an hour and field questions from constituents on both Facebook and Twitter in regards to ShotSpotter, a sensor-reliant data system that picks up the sounds of bullets being fired and relays the information about where the incident occurred directly to officers on patrol.

Cambridge Police announced last month that they would be installing ShotSpotter in one section of the city as part of a two-year pilot program. The equipment, which is being fully-funded by a the Department of Homeland Security Urban Areas Security Initiative grant, uses tiny, hidden sensors to pick up the noise caused by gunfire. When the sensors go off, it sends the information back to a team of analysts who promptly figure out if the noise that triggered the system came from a weapon, or if it was something else, like fireworks. Once they determine what the sound is, they send an alert including the exact coordinates of where the gun was fired to both the police department’s Emergency Communications Center and the laptops that are inside police officer’s patrol units.

The information gathered by the team that deciphers the sound is examined and sent to officers in less than one minute, according to the company that maintains and installs the sensors. Officials said normally it can take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes to find the origin of a gunshot when responding to a call from a resident.

“We anticipate that this will be just as valuable as a public safety tool for the Cambridge Police and help expedite our response in the event that there are gunshot incidents, which can result in potentially saving lives, increasing weapon-related arrests, and ultimately enhancing the safety of our neighborhoods,” said Cambridge Police Commissioner Robert C. Haas, when the department announced they would introduce the ShotSpotter system in May.

Cambridge isn’t the first department to rely on the technology to help locate blasts from guns being fired in their neighborhoods. The Boston Police Department has been using ShotSpotter since 2007. According to reports, Boston police spent $1.5 million to install the technology, with annual maintenance costs running $150,000 to $175,000. Everett, Revere, and Somerville Police Departments will also be implementing ShotSpotter, but much like Cambridge, the first two years of use will be covered by the DHS grant money. No installation dates have been specified for those systems.