For years schools have been looking for ways to stop, or at least reduce, school violence, especially the worst violence: shootings. As I wrote in February, schools are employing technological solutions such as metal detectors (okay, so that's not very high tech), bulletproof wall boards, and mobile apps -- but nothing has come close to providing complete protection.
Now, a Newark, Calif., company is offering a different solution. For some 17 years SST Inc. (formerly known as ShotSpotter) has been developing a technology to detect and analyze gunshots. The ShotSpotter system includes a collection of audio receivers that are connected to each other and placed around an area in a city. When gunshot-like noises are detected -- typically picked up by more than one receiver -- the data is transmitted to SST's "command center."
Computers and humans will analyze the signals to determine, first, if the sounds are gunshots, rather than noises from other sources. If gunshots are the cause, SST will ascertain how many weapons were fired; whether they were automatics, semi-automatics, or rifles; exactly where the shots occurred; and the number of rounds fired. The analysis is fast, and employees at the center can relay the information to the police within an average of 30 to 45 seconds.
Some 80 law enforcement agencies across the US and in several other countries are using ShotSpotter technology. For about the past 18 months the technology has been under development for schools under the moniker of SecureCampus.
SST has been working to decrease the size and cost of its law enforcement system, and has started testing it in several schools around the country, including about two months of proof-of-concept testing at the Oakland School for the Arts in California and at another high school in the Midwest, Ralph Clark, SST's president and CEO, tells me.
SecureCampus uses "power over Ethernet" technology to support the audio receivers in schools and to minimize the need for electricians, whose work can be expensive, Clark says. The receivers monitor a few frequencies. In at least one way, pinpointing location is easier than with the law enforcement technology.
With the latter, receivers are placed around an area, and when several receivers detect gunshots, the system triangulates the location, just as cellular systems can triangulate a phone's location by using cellular towers. With SecureCampus, receivers are placed in specific locations, such as classrooms, cafeterias, auditoriums, hallways, and other open areas. The system would know whether a shot was fired in, say, classroom B or in the auditorium.
When SST's command center verifies shots within in a school, it can contact the police and other emergency personnel, and also school officials. The company can also initiate a school-wide alert via SMS and other security measures, such as locking doors in the school under a "lockdown" scenario, he says.
In addition, SST can integrate video surveillance cameras into the system to focus on areas where the shots occurred, he notes. Receivers can also be located in places outside the school, such as in the school yard, or within a certain area surrounding the school.
All this technology has a price, of course. Some sources say that it would cost schools about $15,000 for the hardware and software, and a recurring annual fee of $10,000 for maintenance and reporting. Clark, however, says that SST is revising its fee structure because the company has found that schools would prefer a one-time fee rather than recurring costs.
SST still will have to convince schools, law enforcement agencies, and any other potential customers, such as government buildings, train stations, and malls, that the systems are sufficiently accurate and valuable. In the past, ShotSpotter reported too many false positives for many organizations to consider using it. But Clark says that problem has been resolved.
In addition, the company has to prove that the expenditure for schools, which might never experience any shootings, is worth it, compared to, for example, hiring more guards, installing surveillance cameras, and implementing better student counseling. He says ShotSpotter like a fire alarm. A school might never have a fire, but what schools wouldn't install alarms "just in case?" ShotSpotter and SecureCampus should be one of a variety of school safety technologies, he says. Schools and city administrators will have to decide whether the possibility of a shooting incident makes installing SecureCampus worthwhile.
Re: Technology in the Classrooms @Alan, i'm not saying they need to shoot the guns in the schools Gun Safety Program, just be taught about them, how to be safe around them and what they can actually do. Yes parents should have the final say in wether or not they get to shoot them.
But safety courses should be taught, in my opinion
Re: I know that this will stir some up I'm retired Military, conservative, support the right to bear arms. But I DO NOT own a real gun, never did. However, I fired some BIG guns including an RPG while in the Air Force.
Agreed. There are rare situations, such as on ranches, where having a gun as a precaution makes sense. But the crazies (yes, crazies) demand to have guns whether they are in the wilds of Wyoming or a New York apartment.
Too many Americans haven't been able to exorcise the "old West" and "guns = freedom" mentality.
Animals I see. Yes I agree that they should be allowed as the US can have some pretty big animals raidi ng bins etc and causing disease. I am just amazed at the obsession with the right to bear arms as you say, not many citizens truly need a gun.
The right to bear arms is codified in the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and in several state constitutions. The Constitution says that a "well regulated militia" is necessary for a free state -- and that has been used by gun proponents as the right to keep guns. Of course, this has nothing or little to do with these proponents being part of a formal militia.
And you state my position clearly: Offering gun safety classes in schools would help "normalize" using a gun. Weapons should never be considered a normal part of life.
There are some times where having a gun, especially a rifle, can be useful in areas of the U.S. with dangerous animals. But that's a special case and, frankly, the number of animal attacks is very low. The bottom line is that almost no one should have a gun.
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