'Electronic 911' can hear gunshots

An experimental technology that can "hear" gunshots may be able to tell

urban police departments when and where gunshots are fired.

In development for several years, SECURES — System for the Effective

Control of Urban Environment Safety — involves battery-powered sensor units

installed on city light poles. If a gunshot is fired, the sensors pick up

the sound and record the time of the fired shot and a triangulated location

of the gunfire. A radio transmits the information to a police dispatcher.

Planning Systems Inc., a McLean, Va.-based company that specializes

in sensors, signal processing and acoustics, is planning to install a demonstration

system in a two-square-mile section of Austin, Texas, early next year, said

Alan Friedman, the company's president and chief executive officer. The

company won a $770,000 grant from the National Institute of Justice for

the work.

"This is an electronic 911 that provides for very accurate location

information," said Friedman, whose company is jointly sponsoring the Austin

project with the city's police department, the University of New Orleans

and the Center for Society, Law and Justice. The demonstration project will

last about a year.

Although Friedman said the technology looks promising, it might not

work in a real situation. He said the experiment will try to determine if

the system helps reduce crime and if it ultimately justifies the cost to

law enforcement agencies. He said the Austin project could provide a "fair

look" at the technology's future as a product or a service.

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