Gun crime has been in the news a lot lately, both locally here in the Susquehanna Valley and nationally. It is a hot button issue in these politically charged times drawing strong reactions on both sides of the political spectrum. Could technology be the answer to reducing gun violence and putting criminals behind bars? It could be.

The city of Chicago is one of the most dangerous cities in the nation. 762 homicides were recorded in 2016, the highest number in nearly a generation. President Donald Trump even threatened to sent in the Feds if the city is unable to bring peace to its streets. Chicago has turned to the tech industry for help and while this may conjure images of a technological innovation ala RoboCop being used what Chicago has turned to is much more simple.

The city has installed what is called the ShotSpotter. Hundreds of sensors were placed in two high-crime neighborhoods and are designed to report gunfire to the police via a smartphone app that will pinpoint its location. The sensors pick up the sounds of the shot and triangulate its location using the other sensors in the neighborhood relaying that information to the police. It was supposed to be sensitive enough to distinguish between a gunshot and a firecracker and a report would be available for the public to see pinpointing areas where the noises were picked up. It allows for a faster police response and does not rely on a call to 911, which can sometimes never come meaning police units can be on scene quicker giving them a better chance of apprehending the perpetrator. The system guarantees 80% accuracy.

The system itself is nothing new and for longtime York residents it may sound familiar. Around 100 US cities have them installed. York was one of the cities that had the system installed for a trial. Some cities have seen noticeable drops in crime, not only of homicides but other serious crimes as well. Some cities have found it to be ineffective, including York. City councilman Henry Nixon said that the system was accurate only 60% of the time leading to a lot of frustration among police officers about spending their time chasing after phantom noises. York was not the only city that grew frustrated with too many false alarms. Places like Trenton, Charlotte and Dover, Delaware did as well.

We have come to believe that technology can solve all of our problems. It can’t. The people that make up any city are complex with their own issues and interests. Technology can be a tool in law enforcement’s tool belt but it will not solve something that has plagued our nation for decades and is only getting worse. To fix the issue may require changing the fabric of our society and that is something that many are unprepared to do.

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