Imagine hearing gunshots in your neighborhood and seeing the police respond before you have time to call 911. Although this might sound fantastic, it is actually reality in many American cities. Thanks to the growing trend of deploying law enforcement sensors on light poles and rooftops, police agencies are able to respond more quickly to crimes in progress.
Indeed, law enforcement sensors are a growing trend in urban America. Police agencies are installing gunshot detection sensors, motion detectors, RFID sensors, and a full range of cameras capable of monitoring everything from traffic to back alleys. Whether or not that means America is becoming a police state is up to citizens to decide.
In the meantime, companies like California-based Rock West Solutions are continually looking for new ways to deploy sensor technology for law enforcement. Some of what they have come up with is incredibly complex. Other applications are surprisingly simple.
Acoustic Gunshot Sensors
One of the biggest success stories in law enforcement sensor technology is that of the acoustic gunshot sensor. This is a sensor that combines highly sensitive microphones with computer software able to locate the approximate site of a gunshot through triangulation.
A basic acoustic sensor can tell police exactly where a shot was fired, and in real time. More advanced sensors can determine the type of weapon and even the caliber of the bullet. Acoustic sensors equipped with extra audio capabilities can record brief sound files to pick up ambient noises.
Data generated by an acoustic gunshot sensor is sent to a central command center for instant analysis. If analysis determines a gunshot has been fired, officers are immediately dispatched. They can be on the scene more quickly than they would have been had they relied on a 911 call.
A Web of Public and Private Cameras
Not all law enforcement sensors are as complicated as acoustic gunshot sensors. Some are as simple as video cameras. It turns out that many urban centers across the country are quietly building vast webs of public and private cameras capable of keeping an eye on larger areas of real estate.
Public cameras are mounted on utility poles and buildings to keep an eye on foot traffic, automobile traffic, and so forth. Law enforcement agencies use video footage to identify crimes in progress or investigate crimes after they occur. Live footage can even be used to thwart crimes before they occur.
In the private sector, both commercial and residential property owners are installing their own surveillance cameras in ever-increasing numbers. Police agencies routinely ask for access to video footage when investigating crimes.
Taking it one step further is Amazon, the retail giant we all love to hate. Amazon owns a security camera company known as Ring. And Ring offers local police departments free video doorbells they can pass out to local residents for public relations and crime fighting purposes. Ring has even set up a network that allows users to make video footage available to police agencies on a voluntary basis.
There Are Concerns
As you might expect, there are legitimate concerns about the growing number of sensors being used by law enforcement agencies. Much of the concern is over trying to define that fine line between security and privacy. It is a question of how much privacy we are willing to sacrifice in order to feel safe and secure.
As society attempts to work that out, tech companies continue working on bigger and better things. It will be interesting to see what kinds of law enforcement sensors they come up within the next few years.