Sensors in Oakland School Can Detect Gunshots, Notify Police

| by Michael Allen

A Bay-area company, SST, is installing its ShotSpotter “gunshot detector” sensors inside every room of an unidentified charter school in Oakland, Calif.

The sensors, about the size of a light switch, are supposed to detect pressure changes and infrared heat that happen with gunshots, notes the San Francisco Chronicle.

If there are gunshots detected, then a ShotSpotter employee notifies the police department and sends a floor plan of the school to the computer screens of police cars.

The floor plans show which classroom the gunshots were fired in, possibly the type of gun used and where the shooter (or shooters) is located.

Teachers and school staff will get instant messages on their cell phones telling them to lock their classrooms or run for safety.

The ShotSpotter sensors for the Oakland Charter school, which is acting as a pilot test, are free, but the gadgets will normally cost $15,000 to set-up and about $10,000 per year to monitor.

“People who are in a position to know that it’s a real gunshot aren’t thinking about calling 911,” SST CEO Ralph Clark told the San Jose Mercury News. “They’re thinking about running for cover, hiding themselves. The people who aren’t directly in harm’s way really don’t know whether it’s a gunshot or not.”

However, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California claims these types of systems have trouble identifying gunshots from other sounds and may violate privacy.

“Expanding the use of ShotSpotter technology to include school campuses could carry the cost of jeopardizing... our privacy rights,” said Jory Steele, a managing attorney for the ACLU.

Sources: San Jose Mercury News and San Francisco Chronicle