The State of California, in a multi-agency effort between the California Transportation Agency, the FBI, local law enforcement agencies and the California Highway Patrol (CHP), has pledged funds to install a new highway crimefighting team. The technology lineup includes a handful of IoT technologies: acoustic microphone sensors, license tag readers, video surveillance cameras and ShotSpotter gunshot detection and location service.
The cameras and related equipment will be installed along two major highways, Interstate 80 and Highway 4, in the San Francisco Bay Area. The highways connect the cities of Richmond, CA, and Antioch, CA, and they have been plagued with dozens of gang-related shootings over the past 18 months that have killed and injured motorists. According to a report in the East Bay Times, the overall cost of the project will be roughly $1.5 million to $2 million. Law enforcement officials note that this will be the first time in California this collection of IoT technology has been used on freeways.
The aim of installing this technology is to decrease and prevent violent crimes that often plague high crime and gang sites on the edges of and adjacent to the highway. According to the California Highway Patrol, since 2015 there have been 87 shootings on Bay Area freeways in which eight people died — all of them in Contra Costa County — and 39 others were injured. In 2017, law enforcement officials have already reported 21 shootings, which is alarmingly high.
The hope is that by using the cameras and automated gunshot technology, CHP officers will be able to respond more quickly to highway shootings. Until now, the problem with nabbing drivers who are shooting at each other on the freeway is that the CHP would receive reports of a crash, but officers only realized that it had been caused by gunfire when they arrived at the scene. The time lapse often results in the shooters escaping the scene and make it difficult for police to gather evidence on a moving freeway.
The California State Transportation Agency, using recently secured funds for this project, plans to work closely with CHP and other law enforcement officers to implement the technology this summer. The plan is to install three components that work together: ShotSpotter acoustic microphones and gunshot surveillance monitoring, video cameras and license plate readers.
The video cameras will have panning, tilting and zooming capabilities and additional technology that allow them to capture still pictures of moving vehicles. The sound of a gunshot would automatically turn the video camera in the direction of the shooter as well as send an alert to someone logged into the surveillance system who will be able to adjust the position of the lens remotely. The video camera will also have the capability to take still shots of a suspect’s vehicle and send them to the police agency in that area.
Meanwhile, the license plate reader is constantly running. So once police have zeroed in on a shooter using ShotSpotter sensors and the pan-tilt-zoom cameras, they can review the video footage of vehicles’ plates to find the set belonging to the suspect’s car. In addition to capturing visual information about the shooter and its vehicle, this combination of video and license technology can also help identify potential witnesses (in nearby cars) who watched the shooting occur.
How ShotSpotter Works
The key component of the integrated system is ShotSpotter, a gunshot detection, acoustic surveillance technology that uses sophisticated sensors to detect, locate and alert law enforcement agencies of gunfire incidents in real time. ShotSpotter uses acoustic sensors that are strategically placed in an array of 15 to 20 sensors per square mile that can reliably detect and accurately triangulate gunshot activity. Each sensor captures the precise time, location and audio snippet associated with boom and bang sounds that may represent a gunshot.
This data is first filtered by machine algorithms that are further qualified by a trained and staffed 24x7 Incident Review Center at ShotSpotter to ensure the events are in fact gunfire. In addition, they can append the alert with other critical intelligence, such as whether a fully automatic weapon was fired. This process takes less than 45 seconds between the actual shooting and the digital alert (with a precise location dot on a map) popping onto the screen of a computer in the 9-1-1 Call Center.
In addition to command center notifications, ShotSpotter offers ShotSpotter Flex, a subscription service that instantly notifies officers of gunshot crimes in progress with real-time data delivered to dispatch centers, patrol cars and smart phones via the ShotSpotter Mobile™ App.
The mobile app:
- Provides real-time access to maps of shooting locations and gunshot audio
- Offers actionable intelligence for on-site officers, detailing the number of shooters and the number of shots fired
- Pinpoints precise locations for first responders aiding victims, searching for evidence and interviewing witnesses.