Hillsborough County installing devices that can hear gunshots, pinpoint location

Image from ShotSpotter

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Hillsborough County has made arrests with the help of high-tech cameras and license plate readers. But now they’re adding devices that can “hear” gunshots, notifying the department about where the shot was fire.

Eighty ShotSpotter devices will be placed in the county’s highest crime areas: University Square and Nuccio Park. “It’s going to allow us to respond quicker and more accurately where gunfire happens,” Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Capt. David Fleet says.

Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office image
Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office image

These devices can pick up high-frequency sounds from gunshots, Fleet says. That information is sent to the ShotSpotter company headquarters in California and, in seconds, is confirmed by a human and relayed to the department with a location. The accuracy ranges from within 20 meters to, sometimes, several feet. “Acoustic sensors, when they detect gunfire they triangulate where the sound emanated from,” Fleet says.

Fleet says the sensors will be paired with the cameras so in the event a gunshot is heard, the cameras will swivel around to catch the action. The ShotSpotter system claims it can differentiate between gunfire, a vehicle backfire, fireworks and other loud noises.

The Bradenton Police Department looked at the system last year. However, it was never installed due to funding issues.

Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office image
Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office image

Residents including Sandra Anderson hoped for the technology. “It’s a good idea, and I’m all for it,” she says. “Put it right on that pole there.”

The Hillsborough County system will cover 4.5 square miles and will cost $800,000. Fleet says it’ll be paid for with a trust fund used for public safety expenses.


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