Call To Trial Gunfire Detectors At 'Soft Targets' In London

By BethPH Last edited 114 months ago

Last Updated 20 January 2015

Call To Trial Gunfire Detectors At 'Soft Targets' In London

Photo by Dan_W8 in the Londonist Flickr pool

Gunfire detection systems should be installed at hospitals, museums, train stations and shopping centres to improve armed police response times to terror attacks, a leading City Hall Conservative says.

Already being trialled at an unnamed school in the USA, the Guardian Indoor Gunshot Detection system uses heat and sound from gunfire to alert police and also allows armed officers to track a gunman inside a building.

Roger Evans says that at a cost of £3m, the system would be less than 1% of the country's £3.5bn anti-terror budget and is calling for a trial at 50 undisclosed 'soft targets' in the capital. But is such a system really needed in London?

With the UK's police currently on high alert after the recent terrorist attacks in France and a foiled plot in Belgium, the prevention of similar attacks is higher on the political agenda than ever.

Despite reports of increased gun crime in the capital, the UK's firearm murder rate is actually pretty low compared to some countries. But a quick police response to a shooting incident is vital. The Met says armed officers should respond to incidents in about 12 minutes, though they faced criticism after the murder in Woolwich of Fusilier Lee Rigby after taking 14 minutes to respond.

Police in Washington DC use ShotSpotter and have called it 'instrumental' in enabling officers to be dispatched quicker when gunshots are heard. The caveat is, of course, that it's not infallible. A Washington Post article has highlighted some of the system's failings, such as false positives caused by similar noises and urban acoustics.

It's worth bearing in mind that detectors would be part of a range of anti-terror measures, not a replacement for existing ones. Incidents that don't involve firearms (like at Woolwich) would still need different measures. The party is now calling for a trial of the system at 50 undisclosed public sites. GLA Conservative crime spokesman, Roger Evans said:

“One of the major issues during a live shooting situation is the time it takes to call the police. People first have to make life or death decisions to protect themselves before being in a position to use their phone, which delays response times. An alarm system detecting gunfire would automatically alert authorities to a live incident. It would remove the need to make emergency calls in the first place, cutting response times by several minutes and saving lives in the process."

Evans has written to the Mayor, Met Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe and Home Secretary Theresa May, urging a UK-wide pilot of the detectors.