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Oakland to test gunshot location system in violent neighborhoods

Associated Press | April 14 2006

A city councilor hopes to curb a rising murder rate by installing a gunshot-locator system that uses sensitive microphones attached to buildings to remotely pinpoint shootings.

Oakland councilman Larry Reid, whose district includes some of the East Oakland's most violent neighborhoods, said Tuesday his office will pay $10,000 to test the ShotSpotter system that is already in use in parts of Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

Reid hopes to have the system in place by the end of the month.

Police hope the technology will help dispatch officers more quickly and catch fleeing criminals.

If the test is successful, the city would need to raise about $400,000 to install nearly 100 sensors in an 8-square-mile section of the city, said Oakland police Lt. Pete Sarna II.

The system uses microphones mounted on flat roofs and connected to telephone lines to triangulate the location of the gunshots to within 10 to 30 feet, said James Beldock, president of the Santa Clara-based ShotSpotter Inc.

Parts of Los Angeles experienced a 60 percent decline in gunfire after the technology was installed, but the county's $177,000 system broke down several months ago, said Los Angeles County Sheriff's Commander Sid Hale.

"When it's working, it does make our streets safer," Hale said. "The results have been mixed."

Oakland has had 39 murders so far this year. The city recorded 16 murders over the same period last year.

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