Police microphone network to detect gunshots does not work
PUBLISHED August 24, 2012
Details of the Shotspotter system's failings were revealed on Thursday by police chiefs who told a Birmingham community meeting that it will cost at least £40,000 per year to monitor the system in the future.
Shotspotter, which is used in 50 cities across America, uses a network of microphone sensors grouped in crime hotspots to pinpoint gunfire to within 25 metres.
The system was introduced in December 2010, but initially struggled in Birmingham - which is the only UK city to be piloting it - because of the low number of shootings and the illegally converted weapons typically used by gangsters.
But the sensors, which are hidden across inner city Birmingham, were recalibrated in November and experts in the US have been providing 24-hour analysis of any alerts.
Last night Chief Superintendent Clive Burgess told residents, community groups and politicians at the meeting in Handsworth that the system had received 1,608 alerts since the November restart.
He added that only 45 alerts were passed on as possible shootings from the US experts to the force control centre.
He added that 33 of those were either fireworks or gunshots.
A further 10 were classified as a single gunshot sound, but only two were confirmed as firearm incidents - including one which involved multiple firearms.
It failed to pick up four other confirmed incidents in the areas it is located in.
Chief Supt Clive Burgess, commander of Birmingham West and central police, said: "When the kit went in it was not very accurate.
"But I see it as a real positive that we don't have many guns going off and it therefore struggles to detect them. We have to make recommendations about the system in the future and I am here to hear what people think. I am open minded about what happens next. It cost £150,000 to install and it cost £24,000 to monitor this year.
"Next year that cost will rise to around £40,000 and the cost will increase every year with inflation.
"It is quite an expensive system, but you can't really put a price on a life. But it is also important to say that this is not the only tool we use to tackle gangs and guns."
Local councillor's, Waseem Zaffar (Lab, Lozells and East Handsworth) and Paulette Hamilton (Lab, Handsworth Wood) told the meeting that they both supported any system that would stop young people picking up guns.
Perry Barr's Labour MP Khalid Mahmood added: "This is not the only tool that the police use but I think it's important that this system continues. It pinpoints where incidents are happening so that officers can respond quickly. It allows the force to use its resources more efficiently and it makes our environment safe."