Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Better Ask Around

This in:

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Businesses and government in the U.S. city of Newark -- under pressure after execution-style killings of three college students -- have earmarked $3.2 million to help police combat future crimes, Newark's mayor said on Tuesday. Mayor Cory Booker said the security would include gunshot detection technology, which uses sensors to pinpoint a source of gunfire, and 50 additional surveillance cameras.

The mayor's political future has been clouded after three students were shot in the back of the head and killed in a primary school playground 10 days ago. A fourth victim survived a shot to the face.

The shootings have drawn national attention and sparked heated debate on the city's gang violence, because the victims, two men and a woman aged between 18 and 20, were promising students and good citizens.

"This new technology will enable us to zero in on the location of gun fire, so we can quickly dispatch police and other emergency responders to the scene," said Booker in a statement.

The key words in this article are in the first paragraph: "under pressure."

I think this response is more about a politician(s) in trouble than an anti-gun violence initiative. This technology has been around since the mid-90's. It was developed during the Viet Nam War and is based on sensors that triangulate the sound (the software can also differentiate between gunshots and fireworks) and issue coordinates. The sensors can be mounted almost anywhere and the monitoring equipment and software is usually positioned in an emergency communications center such as 911.

These systems are rather expensive. Before Newark invests perhaps millions in such a system, they'd better ask Rochester, NY, about this. After spending over a half million dollars, it hasn't helped them that much.

We evaluated such a system. We didn't bother seeking the funds to acquire this technology.

It may or may not help Newark, I cannot judge this. There may be some short term improvements. But don't be surprised if after a few years they find out that they may have been better served spending these funds in other ways.

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