Don't Fire A Gun In Minneapolis, They're Listening

from the the-twin-cities'-many-ears dept

We’ve been coming across a lot of stories lately about new surveillance technologies, most of which seem rather theoretical, without much evidence that they actually work in practice. But it appears that at least one of them, the gunshot sound detector, that can pinpoint the exact location of a fired shot, actually works. In Minneapolis, police claim to have made an arrest within hours after installing a new system. As soon as the shot was detected, police were able to locate and chase down the shooter. Currently, there are plans to install such a system in several more Minnesota towns, and an instant success such as this one will likely hasten their approval. But, one success doesn’t really mean the system works. The police department, for example, probably won’t be touting every time they go on a wild goose chase because a car backfired or a tire exploded. Now, in case a gunshot report isn’t in itself enough to win a conviction, cities can add detectors that pick up on anger and suspicious behavior so as to add more circumstantial evidence.

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Don't Fire A Gun In Minneapolis, They're Listening”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Chris (user link) says:

Re: Why is this useful?

The area they installed this system in is a high crime/gang neighborhood.

There are literally dozens of gunshots going off during the weekend in the area.

As for discharging a gun in Minneapolis, I assume this is the same in every major city, it is illegal. You can’t just walk out to your backyard and start firing your weapon.

Of course in the Bloomington/Lake area where this new system was installed it’s apparent the people feel it is legal as long as it is done from your moving vehicle.

Thes city is a mess and has become a haven for gansta thugs. It is all radiating out from this specific area.

It’s about time the city has started to recognize the problem.

DigitalDemocracy says:

Why is this useful?

Most cities it is illegal to discharge a firearm in a city. Having a gun go off in a large urban area is enough of a threat to have a system like this employed. It’s been illegal for years to discharge firearms within city limits, for good reason. Do you want your police force tied up running around checking to make sure target practice isn’t a gang shootout?

This is not invasion of privacy, it’s a realistic example of If you Have Nothing To Hide you have Nothing to Fear, most of the times that is just an excuse to build onto big brother.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Why is this useful?

If discharging a firearm isn’t illegal, then this really serves no purpose. Law enforcement requires more than the sound of a gunshot to assume a crime is being committed– at least it did before we all started wiping our asses with The Contstitution. If it is illegal, like I said– that’s a mighty big expenditure to enforce one particular statute.

It would be much more useful if they tuned it to smoke detectors and fire alarms. Let it actually do something for public safety. Leave law enforcement to the humans who can exercise judgment and rationalization.

Walt French (profile) says:

Re: Re: Why is this useful?

> If discharging a firearm isn’t illegal, then this really serves no purpose.

Nonsense. Since the purpose of shooting is to injure or kill (or threaten same), law enforcement has proper concern about discharge, whether legal (unlikely) or not. Immediate notification of a weapon being fired at a give place allows quick response to injuries, rapid alertness about cars speeding from the scene, etc.

This technology has detected and caught murderers in other cities (e.g., East Palo Alto, CA) and it’s insane to think the cops want it just because they’re bored. Unlike security cams everywhere that just smell like Big Brother, there’s very little risk of non-firearm activity triggering them, and therefore, they help protect people in high-crime areas.

PS: Smoke detectors are designed to be cheap (for maximum usage) and therefore don’t have much logic to distinguish between false and real alarms. Manufacturers design for zero false negatives at the risk of many false positives (e.g., roasting a chicken in a greasy oven can set it off). In contrast, the microphone systems have some ability to distinguish between noises before alerting the cops.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Why is this useful?

One more thing. This will only serve to help identify the location of a single shot. It’s a well-worn axiom that by the time the second or third shot rings out, everyone knows where it’s coming from.

So millions of your dollars will be spent to find the single (two at most) shot instances, but in this densely-packed urban community of which you speak, chances are the guy in the apartment next door is already on the phone with 911 anyway. It’s just a waste of money, even if it works like a charm.

Lawdog says:

Re: ummm

Or it could be used as a pretense. I met two people in the ’90’s. Neither one of them knew each other.

The first told stories of testing hand loaded ammunition about once a week in the city limits where it was illegal to fire a gun, back in the ’70’s.

The second was a deputy who had been briefed on the complaints. But, he was more interested in seeing if he could get into the house of a local concert promoter, who he suspected of cocaine use and happened to live in the area of the complained about gunshots. So, he made an “anononymous” call to his dispatcher to say the shooter was at it again, and gave the concert promoter’s address. He answered the call from his dispatcher and wormed his way into the concert promoter’s house.

In Minneapolis today, he’d only have to fire off his own gun.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is not invasion of privacy, it’s a realistic example of If you Have Nothing To Hide you have Nothing to Fear, most of the times that is just an excuse to build onto big brother

This is an instance where I do agree that a system like this one could prove useful in protecting the public in urban areas. However, the statement: If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear is not an attitude I could EVER adopt.

Wendy says:

Listening to gunfire in Minneapolis

If only you naysayers would read the Minneapolis Newspaper – you’d know how desperately this technology is needed here. A night rarely passes without a murder. We have drive-by shootings, murders on residential streets and on the entertainment streets. Check out the Minneapolis crime statistics and they tell the story.

Invade my privacy all you like, Minneapolis Police.

Rimble XH says:

Listening to gunfire

“A man’s right to swing his fist ends where my nose begins”

And swinging this particular fist, i.e. firing a gun inside city or town limits (especially withing a major metropolis) is almost by definition going to hit someone or something it shouldn’t. A “target-rich” environment. Which is why it is almost universally illegal to even fire a gun in city limits. Unless you are on a designated range, and I’m SURE that the software associated with said sensors can be ‘trained’ to ignore that case. Assuming the range owner hasn’t already soundproofed the building to avoid noise complaints by the neighbors. The Constitution guarantees the right to BEAR arms, not to FIRE them willy-nilly. Conscientious citizens would take care to use firearms in a safe manner anyway; the sensors ONLY locate reckless fools or criminals, and assists the police in dealing with them.

This is not a “privacy” issue; unlike cameras, which *can* catch you going places you wouldn’t want other people to know about, places which one is entitled to not have other people know about, like a strip club, the sound sensors only key on a specific action.

Firing a gun within city limits is an ABSOLUTE POSITIVE that something illegal is happening, even if not specifically linked to a robbery, murder or other such felony. And while “everybody” may know where the shots are by the time several have rung out, the people may be too intimidated or resigned to dial 911 themselves. This is a wonderful tool for law enforcement, and I hope others can implement it.

FishBulb says:

4 Square Miles, no gun ranges.

Where these sensors was installed was in a 4 square mile area. That 4 square mile area is responsible for over 50% of shots fired calls in Minneapolis. And that’s just calls, I’m sure there are more that don’t get reported.

(Minneapolis is about 59 square miles)

I haven’t taken a census of Gun ranges in my home town, but I’m pretty sure none are located in this 4 square miles.

Jackal says:

Wasted Tax Dollars.

I guess it is one step closer to anti-gun laws that so many want to see passed. I think the whole concept is silly. In essence, this “system” is one step closer to listening to what you have to say. We worry about phones being tapped… think about this for a minute… as soon as the technology is in place, and improved, anyone that says ‘bomb’ on a street corner will be brought in for questioning… not to mention having a arguement with a friend… One more way for cops to stick their nose in your business using your money… it is a lose lose win situation…. the win part is that it fattens the pockets of law enforcement… that is it.

MartinE (user link) says:

They’re installing one here in Rochester, NY where we have a serious murder problem in our inner city. This is nothing compared to London where virtually the entire city is covered by video cameras.
I’m mixed about the big brother aspect of this but when you have kids shooting each over very minor disagreements and innocent bystanders get hit you have to take action.
We should start by going after gun dealers in states like PA who sell handguns in mass quanities to couriers who then sell them on the streets in state like NY that have better gun laws. Anyone can get these things- anyone.

GeeWhizBang says:

Paranoid Freak

It is not big brother at all to have something that unobtrusively detects the shots without illegal wire taps, nor any abrogation of the right of habeus corpus, which are actual invasions of civil liberties.
If a shot has been fired, it is an actual illegal act, and using technology to detect it is not a problem.

However, if they ever use a system like this to also detect personal conversations, that would be obviously wrong.

It is rather notable that the biggest NRA boosters here are probably some of Bush’s ardent supporters, despite his extreme contempt for civil liberties.

The whole NRA thang isn’t really about civil liberties, it is mostly a bunch of crazy gun nuts trying to justify their obsession with violent dangerous weapons.

BTW, there is no personal right for any US citizen to own guns in the bill of rights or the constitution. Period. There is only the right for the states to have their own militias.

MD says:

Useful For A While

Useful until people figure out what the sensors do. Then, they’ll just make sure they don’t linger waiting for the law, after firing shots. Come to think of it, they usually depart after shooting ASAP already.

Great, so you have technology which makes it easy to catch stupid criminals. As a previous poster said, you caught a guy who was stupid enough to linger after firing a gun on a probably deserted street, since it was at 1AM on a winter night.

The real question is – what do police have to make certain they can identify what and who is responsible for such gunshots? I expect traffic cameras (big brother) to appear next. “Who fired the shot? Track down every vehicle thatpassed nearby intersections within the previous 10 minutes, and we have grounds to search them for unregistered weapons…”

Plurk says:


I expect to see a booming sale in black market silencers in Minneapolis shortly. I highly doubt the system is good enough to hear a silenced weapon. More over, on the invasion of privacy issue, it isn’t any different than if the police had a network of officers or informants (say a neighbourhood watch) listening for the sound of gunfire all over the 4 mile area. If I was a criminal in that city, and I wanted to kill someone, I’d wait until they left the 4 mile area or I’d buy a silencer. There are ways around all technology. How much longer until someone develops some sort of whitenoise generator that distorts the sound of gunfire or deafens the sensors. I mean if someone wants to kill someone else, they are going to do it. Whether it is with a gun or not is another issue entirely. Could you imagine the fun of trying to track down who lobbed off someone’s head with a sword? Anywho, just my 2 cents.

tekbandit says:

RE: gunshot sound detector

Again, one sided reporting… What they failed to mention is that a gunshot makes a distinct sound that is unique compaired to a backfire or fireworks. This does not intrude on privacy issues cause its only purpose and design is to detect gunshot locations.

Beefcake – Yes, it is illegal to discharge a firearm within the city limits. For further information, I would check with your local police department on further clarification and precise definition.

As far as gun control, this isn’t, unless you plan to pop off a couple of rounds within the city limits every now and then, this is just to locate offenders that are attempting to shoot another person or thing in order to commit a crime.

As far as gun ranges, unless its an outdoor range and those are located outside of the city limits and have very specific provisions to have them, most gun ranges within a city are indoor ranges. With indoor ranges, unless you were standing approximately 10 feet from the firing line, you wouldn’t hear any firearms being discharge from outside of the building.

Bruce says:

This system is easy to defeat if you think about i

This entire system can be defeated with two just pieces of wood, a piano hinge and a few wood screws. Get two 2×4’s about 4 foot long. Stack one on top of the other and attach the piano hinge to one end of the stack. What you now have should look like a V. Open the V and forcefully slap the two pieces of wood together. It sounds remarkably like the report of a gunshot.

If you want to tape some party poppers between the pieces of wood, it only get’s louder. You could also screw in some handles on the outer surface of the 2×4’s too.

Experiment with different lengths and types of wood for different sound signatures. Doing this between hard surfaced buildings produces a nice echo.

If you have a few of these around the city, randomly going off in rapid succession, after enough false alarms and wild goose chases, the police will lose confidance in the system. POP POP POP, toss it in the trunk and walk away.

System defeated. Anything built by Man can be defeated by Man.

Gun control isn’t about guns, it’s about control.

Paul says:

This system is not new – it’s been installed and used in other cities before Minneapolis (Wired had a big feature story about such a system in Chicago).

And the system is smart enough to distinguish between gunshots and cars backfiring or other “popping” noises.

And for those of you getting all worked about your hypothetical loss of freedom – why don’t you put your life where your mouths are and move to these gang neighborhoods where drive-bys are routine. Demonstrate just how important “standing up for freedom” is important to you.

Thought so – just typing safely behind the screen of your PC in your suburbia neighborhood. It’s funny how some people are willing to rant about Big Brother on their precious rights yet the thousands of gang-related gun murders than happen in this country each year somehow doesn’t impose on the life, liberty, and happiness of the people forced by economic conditions to live in those neighborhoods.

The system works as advertised – it allows cops to catch shooters (of people, usually) within minutes of the first shot.

Erik says:

It's more accurate than you think.

My step dad is a police officer in a virginia city that i thinking about implementing this system. The writer of this article seams to think it would go off everytime a car back fires. Actually this system is so accurate in it’s listening capabilities that it can flawlessly detect the caliber of round fire, and in 95% of the times, tell you the model of fire arm that made the shot. All that from just the sound. It certainly knows the difference between a backfire, and a gunshot

GeeWhizBang says:

Distorted thinking

If you think that this in any way abrogates your freedom, you have a distorted way of thinking. Shooting a gun outdoors in a city is very dangerous and it is very constituional and quite appropriate to make it against the law.

On the other hand, George Bush’s spying without warrants, holding prisoners indefinitely without habeus corpus, secret evidence, are actual civil liberties. Since the NRA doesn’t seem to care about this in the least, it more than clues you in that this isn’t really about civil liberties at all. It is just a bunch of macho yahoos that want to believe that the constitution forces all of us to have to put up you crazies that want to carry guns around without us being able to do reasonable licensing restricitions on their sale.

I have no problem with someone needing a gun to shoot an elk so they can feed their family. But I don’t want people shooting at each other in the cities.

Astron says:

gunshot detectors

As soon as all citys have this in place then we can all talk about the detectors needed to hear the sound of a knife sliding between ribs and also detectors to hear the sound a skull makes when it gets fractured by a ball bat, length of pipe or whatever is handy. Come on people, get real. As police methods change so do the methods of lawbreakers.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...