Seattle mayor pushing for gunshot-detection cameras that pinpoint shots before 911 is called

SEATTLE -- It’s a sophisticated tool the mayor of Seattle believes could curb gun violence.

Gunshot-detection technology is already in use in dozens of cities across the United States, and on Thursday, Seattle city leaders pushed to get a pilot program going.

If the mayor gets the gunshot-detection technology approved, the city will start setting cameras up in areas experiencing the most shootings.

The initiative is something South Seattle resident Keisha Scott supports, becasue she worries when her 5th-grade twin sons are outside playing at Southshore School.

“A lot of this gunfire has been in and around this area,” Scott said.

The city says there have been 144 shots fired in Seattle, killing five and injuring 24 so far this year.

The hot spots are the Central District and Rainier Beach.

“Roughly 5% of our city block is responsible for roughly half of our crimes,” City Council member Bruce Harrell said.

"We have 20 identified gangs in this city, 10 of them, you know, who are fairly active,” Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole said.

The city is hoping the gunshot-detection technology will decrease shootings and increase arrests.

“Officers will actually be able to respond before someone calls 911,” Mayor Ed Murray said.

Dozens of other cities already employ companies like Shotspotter to zone in on the exact location of a gunshot, not just with audio but video.

“This is not a general surveillance tool,” Murray said.

The city says the cameras will only record when it detects a gunshot but that’s not enough to ease concerns by the ACLU, which believes the cameras could be a violation of privacy. ACLU says they have not seen the details of the proposal but they have broad concerns about cameras rolling and controlled by the government. They worry the cameras will pick up conversations and images of innocent bystanders.

The organization released a statement, which reads, in part:

“Will this system integrate with others, such as body cameras and license plate readers, to create an ever more inescapable net of government surveillance.”

The ACLU also questions if the technology is cost-effective and will actually prevent shootings from happening.

“While there is temptation to believe that technology can solve problems of gun violence, the city must still ask whether this is a cost effective investment.”

But for Scott, it's an investment worth trying for her two sons.

“If they have to participate in these walk-in field trips, I worry for them,” Scott said.

She’s terrified a stray bullet could hurt her boys.

“It frightens my kids and when we sit down to dinner they tell us all about it,” Scott said.

The city says the cost would most likely be covered by federal dollars.

The mayor says they will hold community meetings to get feedback before the proposal goes in front of the council.