Fireworks won’t confound Pittsburgh’s gunshot detection system | TribLIVE.com
Allegheny

Fireworks won’t confound Pittsburgh’s gunshot detection system

Megan Guza
1351396_web1_Ptr-fireworks03WEB-070513
Tribune-Review
The Zambelli fireworks that go off in Pittsburgh won’t fool the sophisticated algorithms of ShotSpotter, the city’s gunshot detection system.

Sophisticated algorithms mean Fourth of July fireworks don’t interfere with ShotSpotter, Pittsburgh’s gunshot detection system.

The system gives police a better way to pursue illegal celebratory gunfire, said Dan Shak, the Public Safety Department’s technology manager.

“We continually analyze incidents within ShotSpotter, looking at certain time periods during those holiday seasons,” he said. “Whether it be New Year’s Eve or Fourth of July, we look to deploy resources to those areas that are known to have illegal gun and firework activity.”

The technology uses acoustics to detect when a gun is fired and then pinpoint the location from which it was fired.

Shak said just because the sensors detect a sound does not mean it becomes an alert that is passed on to police.

The sensors capture the time, location and audio related to sounds it picks up, including the blast that gives gunfire its loud “crack.” That combination of information is processed by machine algorithms in the ShotSpotter system, which determines whether the sound is gunfire, fireworks, a car backfiring or something else.

The algorithm, Shak said, is generally 95% accurate.

Earlier this year, city officials approved expanding the ShotSpotter technology to cover nearly 18 square miles of the city. Previously, the technology covered just a 3-square mile section of Homewood in the Zone 5 police area.

In 2016, the most recent full year for which data was available, there were 479 ShotSpotter activations in July. Of those, 400 did not lead to an officer being dispatched. Every other month that year averaged about 64 notifications, most of which led to the dispatch of an officer.

“The number of events that come in to ShotSpotter versus the number of events that are passed on as alerts are different,” he said. “ShotSpotter will receive notifications of cars backfiring or fireworks, but those are either disqualified by that machine algorithm” or the people monitoring the system.

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter .

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.