"Gunshot Detection System" On Its Way to Miami-Dade, Raising Privacy Concerns

Categories: Crime
A gunshot detection system like this would require sensors -- even cameras -- all over Miami neighborhoods
​The gunman squeezes the trigger on his Glock. His victim slumps to the ground. And without a cop in sight, the murderer thinks he's in the clear.

But the light poles are listening. In seconds, small sensors determine the location of the sound and send it to police headquarters. Microphones throughout the neighborhood begin eavesdropping. Cameras swivel and focus. Squad cars close in.

It's a staple scene from any science-fiction thriller: a city so wired that a citizen's every move is monitored. Now the technology looks to be on its way to Miami-Dade.

County Commissioner Joe Martinez set the surveillance ball rolling. This past May 26, he requested a report on procuring a "gunshot detection system" for the Miami-Dade Police Department. The commission will likely vote on whether or not to buy a system this summer.

If Martinez has his way, microphones and cameras will soon be perched atop buildings around town. Every time a gun goes off, the system will notify police of the location, number of shots, and even the caliber of bullet.

Joe Martinez sponsored a resolution calling for a report on installing a gunshot detection system in Miami-Dade
​Martinez, a former cop, says the idea has been floating around for a couple of years, but the price was simply too high. Then this spring, ShotSpotter -- one of two leading gunshot detection companies -- approached him. Instead of an up-front fee of several million dollars, the company could install a system for $50,000 per year for every one-mile radius covered. Martinez was intrigued.

"This is something that can save lives," he says, pointing out that similar systems have been installed in dozens of cities and counties across the nation in recent years.

Not everyone is convinced.

"It's not far-fetched that this equipment will also pick up conversations," fellow county Commissioner Barbara Jordan says. "On the one hand, I am very much positive about the fact that they are being proactive by tracking gunshots in neighborhoods, but I'm very concerned about our personal rights."

"This doesn't go into your home," Martinez counters. But he admits that outdoor conversations could be recorded. "I don't know what your expectation of privacy is if you're walking down the street or in a public park."

Accuracy is another issue.

"It could be a car backfiring" that triggers unwarranted surveillance, Jordan says. In fact, she's right: Systems around the country have been stymied by fireworks and other false alarms.

Even the cost is questionable. Martinez says the system would cover "the area where we have the highest concentration of gun violence," namely Overtown and Liberty City.

But that would run roughly $250,000 a year -- enough to put five cops on the street -- and would require coordination between Miami-Dade and Miami police.

Then again, with the number of police-involved shootings in the past year, maybe spying on Miamians is safer after all.

Follow Miami New Times on Facebook and Twitter @MiamiNewTimes.

Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help
James G. Camp
James G. Camp

I think it's already been installed to be honest about it. There's a big push to reduce/eliminate law enforcement officers as it is. This push wouldn't be happening without some of the system already in place. Even the apartment complex I live in has installed a lot of new devices. A lot of it explained as something and who knows if what they told you was a fire alarm system might also be a microphone tap too. People lie these days like it's nothing. My former employer would shadow workers without their permission, so it doesn't matter whether you're at work or home.


Has anyone here read George Orwells "1984"? Well, for those who are familier with it you know that it is a story in which "Big Brother" is every where watching and listening to your every move and sound. Does anyone see what im getting at yet? While I do understand that it would serve to make Miami a safer place, it is also a gross invasion of privacy. While its intended purpase would be to listen for gunshots and help apprehend criminals, you don't think that people would use it for other purposes? Remember Communism also sounds great, but when put into practice ends terribly. :) Just something to think about. Have a great day! :)


Yes, but will the gunmen receive a traffic citation? 

Search "#janesworld" on twitter for daily satire and funny rewrites of news. 


If you want to save people from gun violence, put cameras on the police.


Wher have you been, it's been here for an long time. But you this fineing out this news.That's what wrong with every one, over yesterdays newes.Thats what they want you to thenk about, in the mean time they get a way with want they want. And everyone ask what an hell happen....... God help us all......

Seth Cirker
Seth Cirker

A very proactive position and this might be a good fit - check out a new safety technology called SituCon (www.situcon.com) that communities around the country are deploying which also protects privacy. It’s the best of both worlds – safety and privacy. This technology places “eyelids” over cameras, so that they are only opened when needed. It also gives individuals wireless emergency buttons - If danger arises, with the push of one of these buttons emergency notifications are sent to first responders, which detail who pressed the button and where they are in the building. At the same time, as the camera's eyelids open, live video of the situation can be viewed at dispatch centers and on smart phones. An article about it: http://www.wickedlocal.com/mar...


Yeah, so what happens if you shoot the microphone?

Now Trending

Miami Concert Tickets

From the Vault