Shotspotter technology would pinpoint gunfire with microphones

By Audrey Wise

August 26, 2013 Updated Aug 26, 2013 at 7:34 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill -- The City of Peoria is looking to get some new technology that would identify and pinpoint gunfire using microphones.

Tuesday night the Peoria City Council is set to vote on the purchase of new technology called Shotspotter. It is a network of tiny microphones used to detect gunfire.

Police Chief Steve Settingsgaard said, "It will tell us how many shots were fired. If there is an exchange between two different guns it will identify that as well."

The shotspotter command center differentiates similar noises like a car backfire or fireworks within seconds. If gunshots are detected, an alert is sent to the Peoria dispatch with an exact location of the gunfire, usually within 50 feet or so.

"Ideally what this will do, will allow the city to more effectively use our policing resources to respond to shots fired calls in certain neighborhoods," said Peoria City Manager Patrick Urich.

It will cover a 3-mile area, mostly the south side and parts of the west bluff.

Urich said, "We're trying to put this technology to use where it will have the biggest impact."

In the past 20 months, Peoria Police officers were dispatched to 1,600 shots fired calls. Out of those, officers found evidence of a shooting 384 times.

The service comes at a price of $405,000 for three years, but the Mayor and Police Chief say it's money well spent.

"In the long run the money saved in wasted time for officers wondering, looking for evidence is significant," said Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis.

"I know there have been cases where this technology has saved lives, that a gunshot victim was located that maybe otherwise wouldn't have been," said Chief Settingsgaard.

The City manager said no one needs to worry about their privacy as the microphones will not pick up conversations.

"This is not about picking up somebody's conversations on the street," said Urich. "This is about utilizing the technology to pick up gunfire and the sound of gunfire, which is very loud."

City officials and Chief Settingsgaard are hopeful the council will support this program. So far, the Mayor says he isn't hearing any push back. If approved, it will be implemented as soon as possible.