New Technologies to Assure Safety Provide Challenges, Opportunities for Law Enforcement

New technologies are being designed and implemented in Connecticut and across the country aimed at ensuring safety by improving the effectiveness and speed of police operations. Two of the most fascinating systems, and probably the most advanced, are next-generation 911, which support text, data and video from any device, and drones, which are aerial vehicles that act as watchdogs of the sky, according to the website StateTech.

Recent news reports, however, are raising questions in Connecticut regarding at least one of the new technologies, now on the ground here.  In 2011, the city of Hartford introduced a technology to boost public safety that was ushered in as a way to respond to  Hartford gun violence, FOX Connecticut recently reported. It’s called the ShotSpotter system, built to detect gunfire and it is also used in New Haven and Springfield, Mass.

In an investigative story on the technology, FOX Connecticut reported that during an analysis of ShotSpotter in spring 2012, police records show that out of 60 total alerts, only six were confirmed, meaning the system was only 10 percent accurate. Nearly a year later, an interdepartmental police memo shows the system’s accuracy on 27 alerts was even lower, at just eight percent. Two of those 27 alerts were labeled as gunfire but really weren’t, including one which was just noise from a snow plow.sound

Additional assets are being sought, and received, by Connecticut municipalities, using both local and federal resource to boost efforts on the ground, in the air, and in the water.

The Stamford Advocate reported earlier this year that a plan to purchase a new high-tech public safety boat capable of detecting an arsenal of hazardous materials took another step forward, when the Board of Finance agreed to spend $610,000 to purchase the vessel.  The boat will ultimately be paid for by the federal government, according to the report, which noted that the federal government is also paying for other boats delivered to, or on order from, Greenwich, Norwalk, Fairfield and New Haven.

Last September, Fairfield took possession of a $488,000, 34-foot police boat paid for by the grant, the Advocate reported. In June and July, New Haven expects to take possession of a $1.1 million, 39-foot fire boat paid for by FEMA with two fire nozzles capable of spraying a total of 4,000 gallons per minute. That boat will be operated by the fire department, but the city's police department will have access to the vessel for its dive team.  And Greenwich is expecting delivery of a 38-foot, $600,000 boat to be paid for with a Port Security Grant. The police department will have ownership of the boat, but fire and EMS will have access to it.

In Bridgeport earlier this year, what ultimately proved to be an innocent wind-driven error brought a response by local police and the FBI when a drone crashed near a waterfront power plant, the Connecticut Post reported.  Among the other technologies in use around the country are automatic license plate recognition and wearable cameras, which the Hartford Advocate has reported are being used by officers in Branford.  The high-tech license readers, now mounted on 87 police cruisers statewide in Massachusetts, scan literally millions of license plates in that state each year, not only checking the car and owner’s legal history, but also creating a precise record of where each vehicle was at a given moment, according to the Boston Globe.