Indianapolis Gunshot detection data under review to determine technology's future in city

Data from a trial run of technology in Indianapolis that detects gunshots is now being analyzed − the final stage of the pilot program before police officials decide whether to keep the devices throughout the city.

After weeks of gathering data and responding to alerts from the gunshot detection systems installed in a roughly 3-square-mile area in the city, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department is now collecting and sending that data to IUPUI researchers to study the results.

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Among the things they’re looking for include whether the technology, which is supposed to pinpoint gunfire and send the information to police, improves officers' response time and evidence recovery.

Analyzing the data from the gunshot detection systems is the final phase in piloting the technology. The three detection companies being tested by Indianapolis police include Flock, ShotSpotter and J&M Security Systems.

The systems are among the technology upgrades granted to the police department through American Rescue Plan Act dollars the city steered toward a three-year, anti-violence plan. The department has also begun rolling out public safety cameras and license plate readers within the past few months, in addition to the gunshot detection pilot.

The trial of the gunshot detection technology has been at no cost to Indianapolis taxpayers, the city has said. The American Rescue Plan Act dollars will come into play if a gunshot detection company is chosen.

Related:IMPD eyes cheaper option for gunshot detection as violence in Indianapolis mounts

“Ultimately, we’re looking at ‘is the return on investment for our community with this technology appropriate?’” said Indianapolis police Cmdr. Matthew Thomas. “We want to be sure, is this the tool that we want? Or is there some other technology that this money could be spent on that would better support our efforts and our communities?”

'Reactive technology': Gunshot detection doesn't mean immediate arrests

Jeremy Carter, interim executive associate dean for the Paul O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IUPUI, said early findings in his research of other gunshot detection systems in U.S. cities show the systems improve the accuracy and quickness of officers’ response time. Carter, who is not part of the IUPUI study with Indianapolis police, is helping research gunshot detection systems in Chicago and Kansas City, Missouri, as part of a grant from the National Institute of Justice.

He noted a common misconception is how the technology will grant officers the ability to respond immediately to gunshot scenes and make an arrest.

“It’s important to realize what the technology is. It’s a reactive technology,” he said. “The technology is really designed to detect gunfire more quickly and more accurately as compared to either a gunfire incident that is not reported or someone who called 911 and has no idea where the event happened.”

Whether gunshot detection systems are ultimately worth the hefty cost, he said, is up to city leaders.

“The technology delivers on what it’s claimed to do, and that is identify gunfire, dispatch police to those locations, improve response times, etc.” he said. “The question then becomes: To what extent is that a budget resource priority for municipalities?”

Police have previously told IndyStar that installation of the detection systems to cover a 3-square-mile area could cost about $250,000 and another $200,000 per year for maintenance.

Thomas estimated it’ll take a few weeks to transfer the gunshot detection technology data to IUPUI researchers, and they hope to have results of the pilot in the next couple of months. He said the study will give a fuller picture about whether the technology is useful, while noting the systems have proven useful during the testing phase.

“What we have confirmed is that we do have instances where officers were notified and were able to respond to the scenes and have confirmed gunshot incidents,” he said.

Contact Sarah Nelson at 317-503-7514 or sarah.nelson@indystar.com

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: IUPUI reviewing Indianapolis gunshot detection technology data