SPD proposes new gunshot detection system to combat shootings

SPOKANE, Wash. — The Spokane Police Department is looking at an innovative approach to combat the uptick in shootings. SPD says the EAGL Gunshot Detection and Alerting system collects critical information needed for shootings.

The gunshot detection system would alert first responders within seconds. SPD says sometimes it can take minutes to receive a call about shots fired.

The system doesn’t record video or sound. It detects gunshots based on what the company says are large energy bursts.

The sensors are so specific, they can even detect what kind of caliber gun was used in a shooting.

People we spoke to think the system is a good idea for Spokane.

“I don’t like walking downtown by myself, but I’m doing it today because I had things to do,” Kaylie Garcia said.

“There’s been a few shootings lately and I think there should be more awareness of that,” Jenna said.

The system can also pick up what cell phones are in the area at the time of a shooting through artificial intelligence. Shawna Ernst says the system is able to differentiate between victims, witnesses, and a shooter.

Ernst says officers will still need a search warrant to make contact.

Councilmember Michael Cathcart brought up concerns regarding guilt by association during Monday’s public safety meeting.

However, Ernst says she hasn’t seen it happen with the system. She says the method is similar to when detectives look at ping phones through cell towers.

“There’s always going to be confirmation by detectives. They’re always going to do their jobs and make sure they’re getting the right person this is just a lead and in some cases we don’t have a good lead,” Spokane Police Department IT manager Shawna Ernst said.

Ernst says there was an incident where a homeless person was shot, and killed in downtown last August, followed by another person killed in April. She says the gunshot system would’ve helped these cases.

“If we had had this system and known who’s device was near that first shooting. It’s possible that we could’ve prevented the second shooting from happening because we would’ve had more actionable intelligence,” she said.

A funding option for the system includes establishing 5G public Wi-Fi service. The Wi-Fi service would generate ad revenue that would cover costs for the system.

Over 500 sensors would be included in the system and they can be moved throughout the city based on community need and risk of shootings.

The implementation of the system is still in the early stages. SPD will put together a project plan, and estimate cost next. The system would still need approval from city council.

SPD says as of June 25th there have been 81 shootings since the start of the year. According to SPD, there was a 190-percent increase in all shootings from 2019 to 2021.

READ: Person shot in the head in downtown Spokane shooting