Miami Commissioners Approve Gunshot Detection System

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The Miami City Commission approved the use of gunshot sound detectors for Overtown and Liberty City. Justin Finch has more on the new technology. (Published Thursday, Apr 10, 2014)

    A gunshot detection system that has been used to try to reduce violence in communities from Los Angeles to Baghdad is coming to Miami.

    The ShotSpotter Flex Gunfire Locator alerts authorities to the sound of gunshots seconds after they occur, allowing officers in some cases to be dispatched before a 911 call even comes in.

    On Thursday, city commissioners unanimously approved spending $275,000 on a one-year trial of the program. Most of the funding will come from the city's Law Enforcement Trust Fund, which is filled by money seized from criminals, and the Community Redevelopment Association.

    "It's an effort to think outside the box," Commissioner Francis Suarez said.

    "ShotSpotter" is set to roll out first in Liberty City and Overtown -- places the commission notes as "high-volume" shooting areas, and where neighbors are often too afraid to tell police what's going on.

    The devices, which will be posted on rooftops and light poles, send a signal to audio experts in California whenever a possible gunshot is heard. Those experts then alert local dispatchers in cases of actual gunfire.  

    "Once a shot is heard, the patrolmen from that area will be responding," Miami Police Department Chief Manuel Orsa said.

    Both test neighborhoods happen to fall into the district of Commissioner Keon Hardemon.

    "It really gives all of us a sense of safety in the city of Miami," Hardemon said.

    While the system is expected to include surveillance cams as well, commissioners cautioned that the technology is no replacement for boots on the ground.

    "We're kidding ourselves, and that's going to take an additional $ 10 million this year, and 100 more cops on the street," Commissioner Marc Sarnoff said.

    Miami will join about 70 other U.S. cities in adopting the technology, which is distributed and managed by a privately-held company.