ShotSpotter or eavesdropper

Syracuse’s new crime fighting technology may be big brother

A new technical crime fighting apparatus will soon be rolled out in the city of Syracuse, N.Y.

The equipment, known as ShotSpotter, will be utilized by the Syracuse Police Department to pinpoint exact locations of shots fired incidents in the city.

The ShotSpotter system relies on a series of strategically placed audible sensors, which trace and filter out, through complex algorithms, when and where a gun has been discharged. A data center compiles the information, then quickly alerts police of the gunshot[s].

In Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner’s 2017 State of the City Address, on Wednesday, she announced the city’s adoption of ShotSpotter and said it will have a impact on the community residents’ safety.

“There are too many illegal guns on our streets,” she said. “The fewer guns that are on the streets, the less havoc and violence.”

At the cost of public safety often comes the potential for civil rights violations, and the cost benefit relationship many times may leave a community trying to find the right balance in crime fighting versus public liberty.

According to Fusion and The Denver Post, the shot tracking system may be useful to spot some gunshots, but in many cities across the country, they may also be useful to record conversations.

In 2007, an East Oakland death helped the world learn that ShotSpotter was also able to pick up exchanges between individuals. when it picked up the dying words of a shooting victim, Tyrone Lyles, which he identified his assailant, later convicted for Lyles’ death.

According to Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the “secondary uses of technology that is sold to us for some unobjectionable purpose” always concern the organization because they are often “used for other purposes.” If the technology is still in place and its sensors are collecting audio recordings of private conversations, Stanley added, “it needs to be shut down.”

Stanley has concerns about strategically placed microphones throughout a city, but also maintains confidence the ShotSpotter data will not undermine the public trust of a city’s residents.

The system is slated for installation in Syracuse in April.