INDIANAPOLIS — There’s a five-square-mile section of the eastside that is more prone to violence than almost any other part of Indianapolis.
Last year, 12% of the homicides and 18% of the non-fatal shootings the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department investigated occurred in an area including the intersection of East 10th and North Rural Streets.
This area is where IMPD is launching a pilot program that compares the gunshot detection systems of three vendors wanting to wire Indianapolis neighborhoods with microphones to listen for gunfire.
“We’re fortunate that this area does also have license plate readers and public safety cameras in place,” said IMPD Investigations Commander Matt Thomas. “We’re taking a layered approach to this pilot and using the technology that’s in the area. The technology’s already there because the data told us to put it there.”
With microphones located on private buildings and light poles, the goal is for the gun detection systems to pick up the sound of gunfire. The sound would then feed to a command center where a monitor can match up the audio with video from public safety cameras and data from license plate readers to give responding officers a better chance of catching the shooters.
“By increasing detections of gunshots, we’re likely to increase the amount of calls for service,” said Thomas. “Officers responding to a gunshot detection alert are more likely to go into the situation and slow things down, wait for back up and make better decision making while responding to an incident.”
Police departments in South Bend, Indiana, and Chicago have deployed similar gunshot detection technology with varied results.
“If we didn’t have the technology, there’s several cases where we wouldn’t have been able to make an arrest,” said South Bend Police Department Assistant Chief Dan Skibins.
Chicago’s Inspector General Deborah Witzburg said local police did not have the data to prove its reliance on gunshot detection technology was paying off.
“‘Can we demonstrate enough operational benefit to weigh in favor of continued investment in the technology?’,” she said police leadership asked. “Ultimately our conclusion, with respect to the Chicago Police Department is, the department’s data does not clearly demonstrate that sort of operational benefit.”
Sherone Mills at Romey’s Used Tires in the 4000 block of East New York Street in Indy said he hears gunfire all the time in his neighborhood.
“It’s pretty much a normal thing around here, you know,” said Mills as he considered whether gunshot detection technology would make his neighborhood safer. “It sounds like a good idea for me as far as if I had any problem here, it sounds like it would be safe for me, you know and anybody walking down the street and for the neighborhood for the most part.”
The pilot program will last until the fall when IUPUI researchers will sift the data to determine which system was most effective and then help IMPD write its contract bid for vendors next year.
The City is spending $9 million on police technology over the next three years.