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Police Will Use Quake Sensors to Pinpoint Gunfire Locations : Law: Computers will provide the information within seconds after shootings in Redwood City.

November 09, 1994| From Associated Press

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. — Technology that pinpoints earthquake epicenters will be used to develop a computer system giving police the location of gunfire seconds after shootings.

The project, unanimously approved by the City Council, is seen by residents and community leaders as a way for police to crack down on increasingly random gunfire in parts of Redwood City.

"You can't understand what it's like until you've experienced diving (for safety) with a child in hand," said Maria Diaz.

East Redwood City residents had wanted the council to spend more than $250,000 on an elaborate system to track gunfire. But because the council wanted to hire more police officers, it agreed Monday to spend $25,000 to develop a pilot gunfire tracking system to see if it works.

Researchers have found that gunfire shows up on police dispatch computer screens within four seconds of an initial shot. Tests conducted in the desert were accurate within 10 feet of a shot and occasionally within one yard.

The system probably will be tested in a one-square-mile area of Redwood City and unincorporated San Mateo County. Light posts and buildings will be equipped with sound sensors and electronic lines tuned to listen for gunfire 24 hours a day.

Scientists developed the project using the same seismic technology that measures the strength and epicenter of earthquakes. When three or more sensors pick up the sound of a shot, a computer uses millisecond differences to calculate where the sound originated.

The location of the shot is displayed to police dispatchers on a detailed computerized map.

There are some kinks in the technology. Work is being done so the computer can differentiate among the sounds of gunshots, firecrackers and cars backfiring.

Washington, which received a $5.5-million federal grant, also is implementing a citywide system to track the location of gunfire.

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