California – Bay Area technology company ShotSpotter (SST) unveiled Monday a gunshot detection system for schools that they hope helps police respond faster in the case of mass shootings such as the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre or smaller incidents, but privacy advocates elicited concerns about the surveillance technology.
A handful of schools, including one Oakland charter school, plan to begin using a new version of the gunfire alert technology ShotSpotter, which can detect gunshots and pinpoint the exact location and time a bullet is fired inside a large building, according to executives from SST, the Newark-based company behind ShotSpotter. Schools now have access to the same gunshot detection technology that has been hailed by law enforcement across the country for helping police solve violent crimes.
However, the proposal to add surveillance technology inside schools has set off alarms among privacy advocates, and promises to create consternation in school districts that must balance safety with dwindling budgets.
“Sandy Hook was a bit of a wake-up call for the country,” Ralph Clark, SST president and chief executive officer said. (this is as a wake-up call for the country! Companies, politicians & gov’t. authorities are using tragedies as an excuse to take away our civil rights)
ShotSpotter audio sensors are small computers with microphones that record and time stamp a certain sound — detect gunshots and similar sounds and alert the SST lab in Newark, where analysts work round-the-clock.
“Expanding the use of ShotSpotter technology to include school campuses could carry the cost of jeopardizing … our privacy rights,” said Jory Steele, managing attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California.
During the next few weeks, schools will begin adding ShotSpotter’s SiteSecure system to their classrooms and hallways as part of a pilot program, said Ralph Clark, SST president and chief executive officer.
According to sources familiar with the pilot, Oakland School for the Arts has agreed to be among the first to use ShotSpotter. The performing arts charter school, which has about 600 students on a small campus in downtown Oakland, did not immediately respond to phone calls.
For a $15,000 set-up fee and about $10,000 per year in fees, any school in the country can have the eyes and ears of a ShotSpotter employee at a bank of computer screens keeping tabs on classrooms.
The pilot program will last two to three months and a full-scale launch will take place early next year.
Clark also plans to bring the technology to malls, universities and airports. ShotSpotter will use digital mapping software application so emergency responders will know the building layout, room sizes and locations of doors and windows. (they can also listen or spy on everyone)