The nation's capital recently bolstered its efforts to combat crime and communicate effectively with the public by investing in more technology. Both online and on the streets, the new technology is changing the way that police officers respond to shootings in the city, and how residents view their neighborhoods.
Joining the likes of Los Angeles, CA, Columbus, OH, Rochester, NY, and Charleston, SC, Washington, DC, is the most recent city to implement ShotSpotter Gunshot Location Systems in many of its more violent neighborhoods. The devices are hidden on top of buildings, and they are able to detect and pinpoint the location of gunshots as soon as they are fired. That information is sent directly to the police so they are able to respond immediately, without receiving a call from the public. The ShotSpotter sensors are so accurate that they can even distinguish between a gunshot and some other similar noise, such as that made by a firecracker or a car backfiring. Unfortunately, since the sound of gunfire has become so common to many residents of Washington, gunshots often go unreported to the police. That is when the ShotSpotter technology comes into play. In the past few weeks since it has been implemented, this technology has already led police to three homicides, and in one case, they arrived in time to make an arrest.
In another example of how the Washington police are utilizing technology to better serve the public, the department recently updated its website to include a new crime-mapping tool that is updated on a daily basis. Largely created in response to demands by the public, this new online resource allows a level of detail that is arguably unrivaled by any other U.S. police department website. The crime-mapping tool lets residents view a map of any neighborhood in the city, and shows where serious crimes have been committed in the past year with small, cartoon-like icons. Searchable fields included on the website can return information specific to museums, stadiums, gas stations, and check-cashing locations.
Like most law enforcement agencies, the Washington police department has always mapped crimes and shared that information with residents at community meetings. However, the detail of this new crime-mapping tool allows incredibly easy access to that information, and the Washington Post said in a recent article that Police Chief Charles Ramsey "believes increasing the level of crime awareness will make neighborhoods safer. The information gets residents involved 'so they can be even stronger partners in community policing.'" You can check this new feature out for yourself at the DC police department's website.