This mini episode takes us to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey as S&T and its National Urban Security Technology Laboratory (NUSTL) field test a promising new gunshot detection system with law enforcement. Direct responder feedback is critical to S&T’s research and development process, ensuring that the final technology is something that not only meets their operational needs but ultimately keeps our communities and citizens safe. Hear S&T’s Anthony Caracciolo, NUSTL’s Brenda Velasco-Lopez, Chief Deputy Nicholas Lennie of the Story County (Iowa) Sheriff’s Department, and Wilhelm Thomas and Rick Carroll of the New York City Police Department’s Counterterrorism Division talk about how this system differs from existing gunshot detection technologies, and how it will help to shave minutes off response time.
Guests: S&T Program Manager Anthony Caracciolo; NUSTL Test Lead Brenda Velasco-Lopez; Chief Deputy Nicholas Lennie of the Story County (Iowa) Sheriff’s Department; and Wilhelm Thomas and Rick Carroll of the New York City Police Department’s Counterterrorism Division
[00:00:00] Dave: Welcome to Tech Speak, a mini episode of the Technologically Speaking Podcast. I'm Dave, editor for S&T. What you just heard is a clip from a November field test of a cutting-edge, portable gunshot detection system, one that pairs acoustic sensors and infrared cameras that quickly alert law enforcement to incidents. This episode was recorded live at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey as responders evaluated every aspect of the technology. So, let's first hear from Nicholas Lennie, Chief Deputy of the Story County, Iowa Sheriff's Office, and member of the S&T’s First Responder Resource Group.
[00:00:47] Lennie: Today we're here to evaluate a gunshot detection system that is different from many of the gunshot detection systems that are out there. I think this technology, number one will take minutes off the response time. Traditionally, you're gonna have a 9 1 1 phone call into your dispatch center, it's gonna take them, probably up to a minute to collect some of the basic information as far as where the gunshots are, what the suspect looks like, the location of the caller, the name of the caller. And when you're talking about gunfire going off, a lot of times these incidents happen very quickly and they're over very quickly. And so, that minute to two minutes to take the call and dispatch out, that's a lot of valuable time and there could be lives lost in that time. With this system here, we're seeing the initial alert coming out about four seconds after the gunshot. And this can be integrated into many of the systems we already use in our cars. So, you can imagine, just that aspect alone, shaving a couple minutes off, the response time is huge. That could be a lot of lives that are saved.
[00:01:49] Dave: One point that Chief Deputy Lennie stressed when we spoke with him was that he takes great pride in providing input on technology that would be available to agencies of all sizes and budgets, helping ensure that it is just as applicable to responders in Iowa as it would be, say, to those in New York City. Here are officers Wilhelm Thomas, whose voice you'll hear first and Rick Carroll of NYPD's Counterterrorism Division.
[00:02:09] Thomas: New York City currently deploys detection throughout the five boroughs. There's that one issue that, uh oh, I heard the gunshots. But it takes a while for an individual to get to the idea of maybe I should call 9 1 1. It's like, oh, that didn't happen. And then another one happens and they're like, Oh my God. Then that sets in, and then it's two or three minutes has passed and that's when they finally call 9 1 1. With the gunshot detection, it cuts that time difference in half. And sends a notification to local law enforcement to which they could dispatch a unit there quicker and in hopes to either stop the incident that's occurring or to help assist in preventing any lives being taken.
[00:02:56] Carroll: It gives us that first line of awareness, in a sense, that alert us to where we need to go and how to get there and what resources we need to bring to it. With this technology, it seems to get rid of that false positive. So, if it goes off, we know this is an actual event that's happening. It's not kids playing with fireworks or just some backfire of a vehicle or some kind of noise that's not a gunshot. That positive notification, that real-world notification, that's not something that was made up or it's, it takes that human error out of the whole situation. It’s AI-based, so it's, cuts all the trash out in a sense. It's, you get the real data that you really need. You have a better response, you're more ready for the situation.
[00:03:32] Thomas: I think this product, works really well. The technology looks sound. As we were watching it in its current testing phase, we see them shooting it multiple times and depending on where the sensors are, and you could give a tile to the sensors, it could give you a little bit more pinpoint location of where the shooter is, that kind of deal. We put it through the ringer today and we asked a million and one questions. Overall, I like what I see from a law enforcement perspective. We're the ones that are gonna be utilizing it the most. Uh, we're gonna be the ones that rely on it the most. So, I feel it's very important to get at least the two cents it requires like today, from law enforcement's point of view.
[00:04:06] Dave: Okay, now that we've heard from a few first responders about the need for this type of technology, and their impressions of what they've seen so far, let's dive into what makes S&T’s new gunshot detection technology unique with program manager Anthony Caracciolo.
[00:04:18] Caracciolo: Our system has two main features that I think current market doesn't have. One is that it's mobile, it's meant to be mobile. So, if there's a concert happening out in the field or there's a rally that just pops up at a, in a park or on a street, police now, and there's no coverage there, there's currently no gunshot detection coverage there. Police will now have a mobile detector that they could deploy as needed. And then the second thing that it has is that these detectors are using two different physics to validate a shot. One is sound and then the other one is flash of the shot. And that's very critical. Cause if you're only relying on sound, which a lot of the products on the market do today, then you're going to end up with a lot of false positives. Especially in an outdoor environment where let's say a truck or a vehicle backfires or something gets dropped, that sound wave could look very similar as a shot wave and the detector could pick that up. With our devices, we're using sound and the flash to validate that an actual shot has happened.
Caracciolo: The need for having detection and notification of events kicking off or happening has become paramount to first response. And it's not just law enforcement either. Because now it’s become medical response because too often what happens in these events is that people die just because they don't get attended to. And so the response, reducing the response time, not just for law enforcement to suppress and stop the shooter, but also for allowing medical emergency personnel to get in there and save people.
[00:05:51] Dave: And here's test lead, Brenda Velasco-Lopez of S&T's, National Urban Security Technology Laboratory on why it's so important to test this type of technology directly with first responders.
[00:06:02] Velasco-Lopez: We're here testing this technology with first responders to provide them an opportunity to give feedback on what's working correctly for the technology, what is not, what improvements can be made. They're the people that use it firsthand. They're the ones that set it up to keep us safe, so they have the most experience on how to use it, when to use it, and where to use it. So, their feedback basically allows a technology developer, to improve, or, to maybe put out more information or guidance on how to use it. The next steps are for us to gather all the data collected. We will put out a report, it's an operational field assessment report that should be out within approximately the next three months. That will contain all the feedback provided today.
[00:06:50] Dave: And with that, we'll wrap up with one final thought from Chief Deputy Lennie.
[00:06:54] Lennie: I'm really pleased to see where they're at with this technology. I think just with what they have presented today, it's a very solid foundation.
[00:07:02] Dave: Very solid indeed. This has been Tech Speak. Thanks to our first responder evaluators and thank you for listening. You can learn a lot more about our first responder mission and R&D on S&T’s website and by following us at DHS SciTech DHS, S C I T E C H.