Gunshot detector system to be voted on by Seattle City Council

SEATTLE — The Seattle City Council will decide whether to go forward with an experiment to install microphones in high-crime neighborhoods Monday.

There’s been a lot of debate about the project.

Councilman Bruce Harrell, the public safety chairman, has been pushing the system, called Shot Spotter.  It places microphones in neighborhoods to determine the location of gunfire and alerts police within seconds.

The system is expensive though, costing up to $500,000 for a five-square-mile system.

The City Council is voting on whether to earmark $250,000 for the project, pending a feasibility study by the Seattle Police Department.

Some critics say the system isn't worth the money, especially because the Shot Spotter systems are in fixed high-risk locations.

"It's a fact that in about half the homicides we've seen this year, we would not identify them as a high-risk area into which we would put a Shot Spotter system,” Clark Kimerer with SPD reported to the City Council in the summer.

More than 100 cities use acoustic gunshot locator systems, including Los Angeles and Boston, but there are mixed reviews.

Some say the systems get police to gunshot scenes faster and alert police of random gunfire, which often goes unreported.

Others claim the systems don't lead to more reports of gun violence and doesn't generate more arrests.

There’s also a privacy issue because the microphones can pick up nearby voices.

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