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Radio News: New York City is now recording gun shots with open mics

Mar 24, 2015 11:20 pm
New York City is getting into the field recordings game, just like Washington, Boston, Oakland, San Francisco, and Minneapolis. Those cities have installed ShotSpotter, a series of open microphones around the cities that pinpoints the location of gunfire, and wirelessly sends that information back to police. “Today, we are rolling out cutting edge technology to make the city safer, to make our neighborhoods safer, to keep our officers safer,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in The New York Times. “This gunshot detection system is going to do a world of good in terms of going after the bad guys.” William J. Bratton, the New York City police commissioner, claims, “On average, 75 percent of shots fired called in by ShotSpotter are never called into 911.” Critics of the program cite other percentages, such as seven percent. Newsday reports a 2013 study found out of 212 potential shootings picked up by ShotSpotter, about one third were false alarms and only 7 percent turned out to be verified shootings. Eben Moglen, a privacy law professor at Columbia University, told The New York Times that potentially incriminating evidence picked up by the microphones constitutes a warrantless search and seizure by collecting public sounds. Why then, would New York City pick a dubious technology that may violate the Fourth Amendment and only works seven percent of the time? Perhaps because Bratton used to be on the board of California-based SST Inc., the company that makes SpotShotter. He left the board just before he became police commissioner in January 2014, according to Newsday.
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