Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Wash. Post on ShotSpotter: Columbia Heights, Park View, Petworth a hotbed of gunshots

The Washington Post recently published a lengthy and fascinating look at ShotSpotter, a technology the Metropolitan Police Department uses to locate where gunshots were heard. And the news isn't good if you live in Park View or Petworth.

Basically, different sensors around the city listen for gunshots and the attempt to triangulate their location so police can respond quickly. The Post's analysis includes info on how the system works, how the police use it, when shootings happen and more, but one of the most interesting parts is the interactive map of density of detected gunshots. And it turns out that Park View or Petworth and one of the densest areas in the city for gunshots -- the other dense areas are Trinidad, parts of Southwest, and a few areas east of the river.

The densest area in our neck of the woods seems to extend from about 13th and Quincy southeast to Warder and Irving, with less dense (but still fairly high) areas extending radially from there. It's a little scary, seeing as how many there are in our area. Most of Columbia Heights is in the blue area, meaning 200-350 detected gunshots since 2009.

The article also tracks when they happen, which is mostly at night, centered on midnight, and what time of the year.

It's sort of an interesting counterpoint to my post about if you think Columbia Heights is safe. I still think it is safe, and I bet most of these are targeted shootings but it's still very worrisome and something I want to look into further. We should figure out how as a community we can stop this trend.

UPDATE: Councilman Jim Graham forwarded me an email from MPD Chief Cathy Lanier, who notes that many of the reports were heard but not verified to actually be gunshots -- so some may be false positives. Maybe they were fireworks or some other sound.


  1. Not sure if I buy the technology, because what's with the gun shots in the middle of the Old Soldiers Home and the reservoir? I live in the purple are rarely have heard gunshots. Then again, I used to live in Baltimore, so I might be tone deaf to it...

  2. Well, the map is generalized -- it says gunshots within a quarter mile. There might have just been a lot that were heard to be a quarter mile from those tiles. The article also explains it's not fool-proof, sometimes it detects fireworks and other noises.

  3. This is several years worth of data. I'd like to see how the map is evolving over time.

  4. It's interesting that the purple area kinda tracks along Georgia Avenue, right? I wish the cops would do more. It seems they always catch the guys in DuPont Circle or Georgetown... How many unsolved cases are in this area? That's a map I'd pay to see! That'd be very interesting.

  5. Anonymous, it's not DuPont, it's Dupont.

  6. It's interesting to note how the Post chose to generalize the map, depending on the zoom level. The big purple blob they labeled "Trinidad" when zoomed further out actually moves to the east when you zoom in. The worst of it in our neck of the woods appears to be in Carver Langston (which anyone who lives around here would confirm), but "Trinidad" is easy shorthand for "shoot-em-up hood," so there you go.


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