Residents of two Cambridge neighborhoods could hear gunfire tonight, but it's only a test

Cambridge Police report officers will fire guns between 8 and 9:30 p.m. in Area 4 and Inman Square to test the city's new system for detecting gunfire.

The city is installing a ShotSpotter Flex system, which uses sensitive sensors and software to help police "hear" gunfire. The tests are to help calibrate the sensors. Boston has had a similar system in place in high-crime areas for several years now.

The tests will consist of a sequence of gunshot sounds followed by validation of quality detection by ShotSpotter. During the tests, a bullet trap will be used to ensure public safety. No bullets will be fired into the air. There is no danger to anyone in the testing areas, which will be held in cordoned-off areas away from the public.

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    What can this new ShotSpotter hardware be configured to do?

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    Technologically, can the ShotSpotter hardware be used or reconfigured for any purpose other than gunshot detection and locating?

    Didn't Cambridge have a problem just a few years ago, when DHS quietly installed surveillance cameras around town, without the city council's knowledge or approval?

    Cambridge police are great, and have a lot of credibility. Not questioning them at all. But beyond Cambridge, outside agencies have sometimes damaged their own credibility badly.

    With this recent history of outside tampering, and what we see going on in national news this last year, is the Cambridge city council now asking the obvious questions whenever any kind of new surveillance and sensing deployments come up?

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    Based on Boston's experience

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    The system is also very good at detecting fireworks and truck backfires - and sometimes has difficulty telling the difference between those and gunshots. In long hours of listening to BPD frequencies, I have never heard them use it for anything but dispatching officers to potential gunfire - and then trying to pinpoint where, exactly the gunfire came from.

    It's also a pretty expensive system, which is why Boston has not deployed it across the entire city.

    Oh, so it's another IT/Engineering conceit

    ..that almost, sorta works as well as the human ear, but not quite.

    But it is something to sell.

    When are the code monkeys going to get tired of reinventing wheels?

    Here's a better option.

    Listen to lots of old jazz horn guys until you can tell the difference between Arnette Cobb and Coleman Hawkins after a few notes.

    It would be interesting to just look at sonograms of gunfire, firecracker and truck backfire to see what, if any, differences there are.

    My boss got the memo from the city too and forwarded it along but you beat him to it with your usual alacrity.

    Considering how little gun

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    Considering how little gun crime there actually is in Cambridge, does this strike anyone else as a complete waste of money?

    You must be a space cadet

    This installation is aimed at a couple of rather small areas that have had a relatively high number of incidents of late.

    Covering the whole city would be a waste of money.

    I wonder about fine tuning.

    My old Seattle neighborhood had lots more gunfire than any part of Cambridge.

    Hell, I observed a shooting outside the picture window on my second day there.

    But there are many kinds of firearms with differing sound profiles.

    A .22 pistol, the ideal close range assassin weapon, barely makes a pop.

    Shotgun things get lower in register, maybe a baritone, to a .22's soprano but each sound can have counterparts in non gunfire sources like a firecracker versus an m-80.

    There are probably atmospherics to contend with and specifics of acoustic situation like a partly enclosed alley versus an open parking lot.

    It is interesting as science and ground level engineering but the degree of fuzziness with the prototypes suggest returns to the drawing board may be likely in the future.

    MIT firing range

    Is it still there? I wonder if they could get people to loan various types of weaponry to the CPD to test.

    MIT does still have a pistol

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    MIT does still have a pistol range, but I'd imagine that to calibrate these things properly you'd need to have them installed in place first.

    The problem with those range simulations

    ..is whether they accurately correlate with field conditions.

    That's why I imagine they are doing 'field tests'.

    And if it turns out to be a crap system will it be due to code failure, hardware failure, some combination of both or merely failure to anticipate the problem scope?

    If it doesn't give you much more information than a neighbor making a phone call then we have a Rube Goldberg design model.

    http://youtu.be/b-IDAgxl9Dk

    Not exactly what I meant

    I thought it might be good for those who keep their weapons at the range or use them there to offer them up for the field tests.

    It might be a good way to calibrate using a variety of weaponry.

    With any luck.

    My systems integration friend from Draper was here a half hour ago and rolled his eyes at the scope of project.

    And from my perch in mid Inman, I didn't notice any kind of bang noise so it must have been real subtle or beyond earshot.

    If anything, these tests provide the designers with valuable data as this sorta thing will probably have an improvement curve before it amounts to something.

    There has been, far as I can

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    There has been, far as I can tell from searching the web, exactly one shooting in those area this year: a drive-by on Windsor Street in July.

    And in any case, the City Council didn't just decide to buy these in response to a hypothetical surge of violence: they've been interested in this system for four years.

    Cambridge, on the whole, has a very low crime rate: there have been 37 murders in the city since 1995, which is 1.9 per 100,000 people, compared to 4.8 in the USA as a whole.

    So I stand by my original statement.

    Fidel Castro?

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    It's Cambridge. So before they read UHub's explanation, people may have thought it was just the Communist Cuban army on regular Maneuvers there.

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    Bingo!!!

    By on

    Bingo Swirl!! Guns and cigars.. Love em both.

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    Ruh roh

    By on

    The cartoon dog Scooby had more character depth than your trolling persona does.

    Oh no Kaz..Say it aint so...

    By on

    Oh Kaz, coming from you, I'm devastated. My day is ruined because you disapprove of my "Character Depth". The hilarious part is you probably actually believe that anyone cares what you think of them...