Will “Shot Spotters” be the answer for San Francisco – or just raise more questions?
By Joe Eskenazi
Joe Cox: Whoa, a new toy. Can I play?
Clarence Boddicker: Watch this … New and improved. State of the art, bang, bang.
Emil: I like it!
The preceding exchange of dialogue – and resultant exchange of high-powered weaponry – is familiar to (guilty) fans of the film “Robocop.” Of course, if Paul Verhoeven’s futuristic Detroit was equipped with a technology soon headed for San Francisco and in place in 18 other U.S. cities, perhaps Clarence Boddicker wouldn’t have had the time to gloat after shooting up Joe Cox’s new set of wheels.
Last week, the city’s Board of Supervisors OK’d a $400,000 move to pilot “shot spotters” in some of San Francisco’s most besieged neighborhoods. In a nutshell, the spotters are sophisticated microphones that can discern between gunfire and other percussive noises (firecrackers, Fred Sanford’s car backfiring) and relay the exact location of the shooting to police.
The benefits of such a system are self-evident, and can easily conjure up images of police instantaneously showing up at a gunfight and arresting murderers red-handed. Yet law enforcement officials in some of the cities already employing Shot Spotters told us that people envisioning the high-tech system as a cure-all – or even a way to routinely catch shooters in the act – may be sorely disappointed.
That’s not to say…