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Pico Rivera Approves Pilot Test for ShotSpotter Gunshot Detection System

January 29, 2024

By Brian Hews

The Pico Rivera City Council has approved a one-year pilot program to implement the ShotSpotter system to detect and locate gunfire in areas of the city. 

ShotSpotter is operated by SoundThinking, Inc. and is officially called a Gunshot Detection, Location, and Forensics System.

The system is used by several cities in the U.S., including Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Detroit, Miami, Oakland, Milwaukee, Sacramento, Boston, and Atlanta.

ShotSpotter works by using sensors placed strategically across an area. The sensors continuously listen for impulsive sounds, similar to gunshots, using sophisticated acoustic technology to distinguish between gunfire and other loud noises.

 The sensors are placed on rooftops, utility poles, streetlights, or other elevated structures.

When a potential gunshot is detected, multiple sensors near the sound record the audio. The recorded data is sent to ShotSpotter’s centralized servers, where it undergoes analysis by both algorithms and “trained acoustic experts” to confirm whether the sound was a gunshot.

Characteristics like sound waves, acoustic patterns, time delays between sensors, and other data points are analyzed to verify the gunfire.

 By analyzing the differences in the arrival times of the sound at various sensors, ShotSpotter can triangulate the location of the gunshot event “very accurately,” usually within a few meters.

 If an actual gunshot incident does occur, ShotSpotter can detect if there are multiple firearms involved, if any of the firearms are high-capacity type firearms, or if the firearm is a fully automatic weapon.  Once the sounds of gunfire are confirmed, L.A. County Sheriff’s Deputies are notified via a digital application to their smartphone or similar device. The alerts provide access to Google Earth maps with turn-by-turn directions that geocode the closest address to help officers reach the correct location. The entire process occurs within 60 seconds or less.

 To obtain the best area to test the system, Pico Rivera gave ShotSpotter over two years of gun-related crime data in the city for analysis. The data was used to determine the optimal location of gunshot detection sensors covering the areas most impacted by gun-related crimes.

ShotSpotter will coordinate with Pico Rivera and the Sheriffs to determine the final best test area.

The Pico Rivera City Council approved the pilot test on a 5-0 vote.

City Manager Steve Carmona told Los Cerritos Community News, “”The ShotSpotter system underscores our city’s commitment to public safety, harnessing technology to enhance the well-being of our community. This initiative, strongly supported by our City Council, exemplifies our collective dedication to innovative solutions for maintaining safety. By facilitating rapid and precise responses to gun-related incidents, we not only boost law enforcement efficiency but also reinforce our pledge, alongside the City Council, to safeguard our community through advanced technological means.”