KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Kansas City police and the local transportation officials have agreed to install a gunshot-detection system that can instantly pinpoint the location of gunfire.
With 39 homicides in the city so far this year, police are looking for ways to respond more quickly to gunfire and the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority wants to keep its passengers safe, officials said.
"We think it's a good opportunity to enhance security, and the perception of security, along some of our major bus routes," said Richard Jarrold, KCATA's senior director for system development and engineering.
The ShotSpotter system has been deployed in 68 other law enforcement jurisdictions across the U.S., including St. Louis. It uses multiple sensors to pick up the sound of gunshots and pinpoint their location.
The Kansas City Star reports that the information goes to the operations center at California-based SST Inc., which developed and markets the system. There, acoustic experts analyze the information to determine if the sounds were gunfire or something else, and relay information to the area's 911 operators or patrol officers when warranted.
Police Chief Darryl Forte said gunfire is so common in some areas of the city that residents no longer call police to report it. He said details about where and how the system will be deployed are still being worked out, and that police don't want to tip off criminals by revealing specific locations.
"The exact number of receivers to be installed has not been decided," Forte told the Board of Police Commissioners on Tuesday. The board approved the agreement that day, and the transportation authority followed suit Wednesday.
The system will be funded for five years with a federal grant of $720,000, which officials said was left over from a previous transportation authority project.
"It has a lot of promise," Forte said. "We'll still need help from the community, but this is one of many pieces of technology I plan to use to fight crime in Kansas City."
Other police departments will be keeping an eye on how well ShotSpotter works in Kansas City before deciding whether to pursue the technology. Among them is Wichita, which has an average annual homicide count in the mid- to upper 20s, said Wichita police spokesman Lt. Doug Nolte.
"Knowing where shots are coming from is nice, but one of the things we don't have now in our city is random violence," Nolte said. "A lot of our shootings are tied to specific places, and when shots come out we can usually find out where it happened. There is not the randomness that would make (gunfire detection) a high priority."
According to SST, the system can provide officers with the exact number and time of shots fired, and whether more than one weapon was fired. It also can detect whether shots were fired from a vehicle or by someone on foot.
Lydia Barrett, vice president for SST, said on average, police receive a shooting notification from them within 20 to 25 seconds of shots being fired.
Jarrold said police, transportation officials and SST will work together to determine the best locations for the sensors, but they generally will be placed in areas with high transit ridership. He said company officials have said the system could be operational in 60 to 90 days.