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Gunshot Detection System Will Target City's High-Crime Areas

Louisville Metro government officials have announced plans to purchase and install a gunshot detection system in the city’s high-crime areas.

During a news conference Thursday, Police Chief Steve Conrad said the technology involves the placement of acoustical microphones in an area. The system can pinpoint the location of outdoor gunfire.

“And that information can be relayed to officers in the field and dispatch centers to make sure that the officers know when and where those shots have been fired,” Conrad said.

The city is on pace to potentially exceed the all time record for homicides in a single year, which came in 1971 when 110 murders were recorded in Louisville, according to police data.

During the budget process this year, the Metro Council urged Conrad to explore using the technology to help reduce gun violence. District 1 Councilwoman Jessica Green said she’s glad to see the plan move forward.

“It was my neighborhood, in Park Duvalle, in which a teenager was shot while visiting her family member this summer," said Green. "It was my neighborhood, in Park Duvalle, where there was a double homicide earlier this summer … about four blocks away from my house."

Green said gunshot detection technology would give police another tool to help them reduce violent crime.

"This is many people’s reality, it is also my reality," she said. "We deserve to feel safe.”

Earlier this year, the Metro Council bolstered the police department’s surveillance budget by more than $210,000 to help fight violent crime. The funds will be used at Conrad’s discretion.

Conrad said the system could be in place by early next year. He declined to discuss the cost, saying it could compromise the bidding process.

Gunshot tracking systems are in place in at least 90 U.S. cities. In some, they've drawn criticism for failing to help reduce the number of gun-related arrests. In April, according to a report from the investigative news show Reveal, a gunshot tracker in San Francisco recorded instances of more than 3,000 gunshots over two years but led to just two arrests. Charlotte and a handful of other cities have canceled their subscriptions to gunshot tracking services.

In an interview with 89.3 WFPL in June, Ralph Clark, president of ShotSpotter, a company that operates gunshot tracking technology, said the goal of the system was to make police more aware of gunshots, not increase arrests.

“The quicker you can get to a scene, recover physical evidence, interview people, show people you care … that brings down the anti-snitching barrier that exists in a lot of communities and, all of a sudden, you get some very interesting intel,” he said at the time.

Rick Howlett was midday host and the host of LPM's weekly talk show, "In Conversation." He was with LPM from 2001-2023 and held many different titles, including Morning Edition host, Assignment Editor and Interim News Director. He died in August 2023. Read a remembrance of Rick here.

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