January 20, 2009 By Elaine Rundle
Johns Hopkins University, located in Baltimore, now has the capability to track gunshots at its Homewood campus and the off-site Charles Village neighborhood where many of the school's students and employees reside. The Homewood campus -- which according to the university's Web site, is its main academic and administrative center -- doesn't include the health system, which is located in east Baltimore.
Launched in November 2008, the gunshot detection system is composed of 93 sensors that are installed on city-owned streetlights and off-campus university buildings. The sensors detect the acoustic signature from a gunshot and wirelessly transmit the information to a receiving station. According to the press release, the information is then forwarded over a secure network to the communication center, and this process takes three to five seconds. Located at the campus communication center is a 40-inch LCD screen that displays the gunshot's location and the nearest address and building for dispatch.
"They have these little boxes on the streetlights on the perimeter of the campus, and those boxes detect any gunshots and relay it back to another building where our security is located," said Tracey Reeves, a spokeswoman for the university. "And they have the TV screens there, and if a red flash comes up, then the call goes to the Baltimore City Police."
Campus security officers -- who are unarmed and therefore unable to respond to possible shootings -- report the information to the Baltimore Police Department.
"Working together with the Baltimore Police Department, I believe that this new addition to our security measures will benefit our campus population as well as our neighbors in the surrounding area," said Edmund Skrodzki, executive director of campus safety and security at the Homewood campus, in the press release. "By allowing us to identify gunshot occurrences accurately, we can give the Baltimore Police Department the ability to respond quickly, to give aid to victims as well as to apprehend the criminals. Being proactive and using the best technology tools available often deters crime, enhancing the safety and security of our students and our community."
Skrodzki also said the system has a 90 percent accuracy rate and a false-positive rate of 7 percent. Reeves said the system has yet to report any gunshots, but has had two false alarms -- in each instance it reported the sound of a car backfiring.