Baltimore police to invest in gunshot detection system

Baltimore police will soon install a gunshot detection system in east and west Baltimore, under a $305,000 state grant that won city approval Wednesday.

The ShotSpotter system will use receivers posted in neighborhoods to detect the sound of gunfire. Police will use the readings to track and respond to potential shootings. Similar systems are used throughout the United States, including in cities such as Oakland, Calif., and Washington.


"These efforts will enable law enforcement to better locate gun offenders and pinpoint locations of the related activity," Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said. "Armed with that information, the Baltimore Police Department can improve its response time … and capture information to enhance investigations."

In 2008, the Johns Hopkins University installed a donated gunshot detection system that included 93 detector boxes on streetlights and other places in the Homewood and Charles Village communities.


Baltimore police tested the system with Hopkins and considered other detection programs. But cost was among the reasons the city passed on one.

Former Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III told The Baltimore Sun in 2008 that police had tested another system previously, "and if I had to rate it on a scale of A through D, it would be a D-minus-minus," he said.

"We saved a ton of money. I was ready to get it, I was ready to sign the check. It was a dismal failure. It was a horrible, horrible failure," Bealefeld said.

Police also wanted a system integrated with Baltimore's CitiWatch surveillance cameras, a police spokesman said

The new system will work with CitiWatch, Rawlings-Blake said, allowing police cameras to immediately focus in on areas where gunshots are detected.