'

Gunshot sensing tech blows law enforcement away

A new gunshot sensing technology can alert police to gunshots, speed, direction and weapon before a call to 911 can be completed.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports on a new gunshot sensing technology called ShotSpotter, which is currently being used in a dozen cities, including Los Angeles. Minneapolis officials were mightily impressed and plan to add it to budget requests. Here's an anecdote:

When a 25-year-old woman was shot while walking to her mailbox in Phoenix last year, police officers were at her door to help even before she finished dialing 911.

The quick response - within seconds - came because a nearby sensor picked up the sound of the muzzle blast, pinpointed the shooter's location to within 10 feet and alerted police dispatchers of the address.

How does this work?

It involves placing a series of sensors 1,500 feet apart, then linking them with surveillance cameras throughout the city. The sensors go on existing structures, such as buildings and telephone poles.

The ShotSpotter system is only triggered by gunfire and it can discern the type of weapon (rifle, shotgun or handgun) being used. The software in the sensors also commands the surveillance cameras to rotate and focus on the spot where the shot was fired.

The sensors are so sophisticated that they can trace the path and direction of drive-by shootings.