Seattle City Council OKs plan to study 'gunshot locator' system in city

SEATTLE -- Seattle took a big step Monday to tackle the rise in gun violence.  The City Council voted on a plan to study gunshot locators around Seattle.

Supporters say the new technology involving microphones and other sensors will help police better track and locate gunshots.

“It gives the city an accurate depiction of where gun fire occurs,” said City Councilman Bruce Harrell.   “It allows out troops to get there, our patrol officers to get there, much quicker.”

The system involves installing special acoustic sensors on utility polls and other perches around the city.  They are able to detect the sound of gunshots and give police GPS coordinates almost instantaneously.

Right now the only way to know if a shot has been fired is if someone calls 911.  And the statistics show that only 1 in 5 gunshots is reported.

“On a monthly basis we look at where we have gunfire in the city and we base that on when people call in on the 911 system,” said Harrell.  “We know that number can be anywhere from 40-50 percent inaccurate.”

Harrell argues that the sooner cops can get to a scene of gunfire the better chance they have of saving the victims and apprehending the suspects.

The experience from a handful of cities around the country that have installed these system is mixed.  Officers are able to respond sooner, but they have not necessarily increased the number of arrests or reduced gun violence.

On Monday, the City Council approved $250,000 for a detailed study of a system like this in Seattle.  More money will have to approved later to fund a full roll-out.