Miami Police Investing in Surveillance Camera and Gunshot Detection Systems

Finebloom, Haenel & Higgins

The Miami Police Department recently announced that it is investing more than $700,000 in anti-terrorism funds from the federal government into an extensive surveillance camera system and a gunshot detection system.  The two systems are part of a campaign promise made by Francis Suarez and has now been unanimously approved by the city counsel. 

The camera surveillance system will involve around 2,500 cameras around the city and feed them into a central processing center where officers can view activity on 200 cameras at a time on 55-inch TV screens.  The cameras will use existing cameras on light poles and red light cameras, along with cameras mounted on buildings.  Some cameras will have to be upgraded to ones that can be zoomed in while other cameras will be installed as the city negotiates with private building owners.

The camera system has been successful in tracking down criminals and terrorists in London, Boston and New York and ahs been credited with preventing crime and terrorist attacks.  It is not without controversy, however, and the ACLU is concerned about how the camera system will be used.  Specifically, they are concerned that it will be used for purposes outside of crime control and prevention, such as officers using it to check out women on the street.  The ACLU is also concerned it will be used for watching people where they normally have an expectation or privacy, such as filming through windows of cars and apartments. 

Also part of the plan is a GPS gunshot location system called ShotSpotter.  That system will have an initial cost of around $275,000 and then yearly costs of $40,000.  The ShotSpotter system uses sensors to track the location of gunshots to within 10 meters and will send video of that location to police officers within 30 seconds.  It will use small boxes located on rooftops to detect the sounds and track them to a specific location.

The ShotSpotter system is especially controversial in light of other major police agencies not using it anymore after they discovered that it did not work.  At least two other major police departments in Florida stopped using the system after they found that it alerted gunshot activity when there was nothing there more far more often than when there was an actual gunshot.  In one department, the system alerted to 1,000 different incidents that it thought were shootings when only 50 actually were confirmed gun shots.  Additionally, departments found that often times the shooters had left the area by the time police got any of the video footage relating to the shooting.