• Feds want Seattle test of gunshot detection system

    By: Essex Porter


    SEATTLE - The local office of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms wants to include Seattle in a national test of gunshot-detection technology.

    That was part of the discussion before the City Council’s Public Safety Committee this afternoon.

    Just this week the Denver City Council approved a half-million dollars to triple the Shot Spotter coverage in that city.

    The system uses microphones spread through neighborhoods to collect sound, then a sophisticated computer quickly pinpoints the location of gunshots and alerts police.

    Seattle police accountability advocate Harriet Walden told us why she supports the concept.

     “I think it would help us solve crimes, and police will be able to identify where the shots came from,” she said.

    Today Public Safety Committee Chair Bruce Harrell continued a discussion that began three years ago.

    The Council has set aside $250,000 to study using the gunshot detectors here because often people don't report gunshots.

    “Right now, for example, if we heard some shots fired outside city hall, I don't think any of us are going to make a 911 call; we're thinking someone will,” he said.

    Gunshot detectors can identify a gunshot in 4 tenths of a second, narrow the location within a 50-foot radius and even determine the caliber of the weapon.

    But while concerned about crime, critics also worry about privacy.

    “I don't believe that installing microphones throughout the city that are managed by a third party is a valid means of doing this,” said Lee Colliston of the Seattle Privacy Coalition.

    While seeing benefits in the technology and hoping Seattle will be selected, Seattle Police said it must be thoroughly vetted.

    Chief Operating Officer Brian Maxey said, “This is subject to a lot of discussion and all the privacy processes that still need to occur. This is not a done deal.”

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