Skip to main content
Log in

A partially randomized field experiment on the effect of an acoustic gunshot detection system on police incident reports

  • Published:
Journal of Experimental Criminology Aims and scope Submit manuscript



To examine whether the introduction of an acoustic gunshot detection system (AGDS) allied to CCTV cameras increased the frequency of confirmed incidents of shots fired by bringing to notice gunfire events in public places that were not reported by the public.


In a partially block-randomized experimental design, 17 acoustic sensors were co-located with CCTV cameras in a balanced design that matched the sensor camera sites with equivalent control locations. Gunshot-related incidents within 900 ft of both intervention and control sites for 8 months pre- and post-intervention were examined with multilevel negative binomial regression models.


After implementation of the AGDS, gunshot incidents increased by 259%; however, there was no significant increase in the number of confirmed shootings.


The AGDS did not significantly affect the number of confirmed shootings, but it did increase the workload of police attending incidents for which no evidence of a shooting was found. While awaiting technological improvements and considering the operational goals, police departments may wish to reconsider the current operational plan and objective of an AGDS.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. While the preliminary data capture for purposes of the cluster analysis was a distance of 800 ft, for the actual implementation, the effective range of the acoustic sensors was subsequently expanded by 100 ft on the advice of technical specialists familiar with the AGDS.

  2. A likelihood ratio test did not explicitly favor the multilevel model over a single level negative binomial model for the “incidents” outcome; however, because the multilevel negative binomial model was shown to be a significant improvement for the “founded” model (LR test \( {\overline{\chi}}^2=4.52,P=0.017 \)), it is used here for consistency. There were no substantial differences in outcomes between the models.

  3. Dent is not associated with the system and his source for this comment is unclear; however, he does quote Mike Vidro, the public safety special projects manager for the police department, who was integral to the introduction of the AGDS sensors and who kindly liaised at length with the authors for this project.


  • Ashby, M. P. J. (2017). The value of CCTV surveillance cameras as an investigative tool: an empirical analysis. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research, 23(3), 441–459.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • CSG Analysis (2011). ShotSpotter Gunshot Location System Efficacy Study. 43: CSG Analysis.

  • Dent, M. (2016). Philly police have used secret gunshot detection tech since January. (accessed 29 August 2018). 'BillyPenn'; Philadelphia, PA: SpiritedMedia.

  • Deželak, F., Čurović, L., & Čudina, M. (2016). Determination of the sound energy level of a gunshot and its applications in room acoustics. Applied Acoustics, 105, 99–109.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Djeddou, M., & Touhami, T. (2013). Classification and modeling of acoustic gunshot signatures. Arabian Journal for Science & Engineering (Springer Science & Business Media B.V. ), 38(12), 3399–3406.

    Google Scholar 

  • Farrington, D. P., Gottfredson, D. C., Sherman, L. W. & Welsh, B. C. (2002). The Maryland Scientific Methods Scale. In L. W. Sherman, D. Farrington, B. Welsh & D. L. MacKenzie (Ed.). Evidence-Based Crime Prevention. New York: Routledge (pp. 13–21).

    Google Scholar 

  • George, J., & Kaplan, L. M. (2016). A finite point process approach to multi-target localization using transient measurements. Information Fusion, 32, 62–74.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gill, C. E. & Weisburd, D. (2013). Increasing equivalence in small-sample place-based experiments. In B. C. Welsh, A. A. Braga & G. J. N. Bruinsma (Eds.). Experimental Criminology: Prospects for Advancing Science and Public Policy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (pp. 141–162).

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Irvin-Erickson, Y., LaVigne, N., Levine, N., Tiry, E., & Bieler, S. (2017). What does Gunshot Detection Technology tell us about gun violence? Applied Geography.

  • Klinger, D. (1997). Negotiating order in patrol work: an ecological theory of police response to deviance. Criminology, 35(2), 277–306.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Luzi, L., Gonzalez, E., Bruillard, P., Prowant, M., Skorpik, J., Hughes, M., Child, S., Kist, D., & McCarthy, J. E. (2016). Acoustic firearm discharge detection and classification in an enclosed environment. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 139(5), 2723–2731.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mazerolle, L. G., Frank, J., Rogan, D. & Watkins, C. (1999). A field evaluation of the ShotSpotter Gunshot Location System: final report on the Redwood City field trial. 64 Washington DC: National Institute of Justice.

  • Mazerolle, L. G., Watkins, C., Rogan, D., & Frank, J. (1998). Using gunshot detection systems in police departments: the impact on police response times and officer workloads. Police Quarterly, 1(2), 21–49.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Moher, D., Hopewell, S., Schulz, K. F., Montori, V., Gøtzsche, P. C., Devereaux, P. J., Elbourne, D., Egger, M., & Altman, D. G. (2010). CONSORT 2010 explanation and elaboration: updated guidelines for reporting parallel group randomised trials. British Medical Journal, 340(c869), 1–28.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nguyen, Q., & Choi, J. (2017). Matching pursuit based robust acoustic event classification for surveillance systems. Computers & Electrical Engineering, 57, 43–54.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ratcliffe, J. H., Taniguchi, T., & Taylor, R. B. (2009). The crime reduction effects of public CCTV cameras: a multi-method spatial approach. Justice Quarterly, 26(4), 746–770.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • ShotSpotter Inc. (2018). Real-time intelligence to fight gun violence. Vol. 2018.

  • StataCorp. (2013). Stata statistical software: release 13. College Station: StataCorp LP.

    Google Scholar 

  • StataCorp. (2017). Stata statistical software: release 15. College Station: StataCorp LP.

    Google Scholar 

  • Taylor, R. B., Ratcliffe, J. H., & Perenzin, A. (2015). Can we predict long-term community crime problems? The estimation of ecological continuity to model risk heterogeneity. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 52(5), 635–657.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Watkins, C., Mazerolle, L. G., Rogan, D., & Frank, J. (2002). Technological approaches to controlling random gunfire: results of a gunshot detection system field test. Policing: An International Journal, 25(2), 345–370.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Weisburd, D., & Eck, J. (2004). What can police do to reduce crime, disorder, and fear? The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 593(1), 43–65.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Weisburd, D., & Majmundar, M. K. (Eds.). (2017). Proactive policing: effects on crime and communities. Washington, DC: National Academies of Sciences Consensus Study Report.

    Google Scholar 

  • Welsh, B. C., Zimmerman, G. M., & Zane, S. N. (2017). The centrality of theory in modern day crime prevention: developments, challenges, and opportunities. Justice Quarterly.

  • Ye, J., Kobayashi, T., & Murakawa, M. (2017). Urban sound event classification based on local and global features aggregation. Applied Acoustics, 117, 246–256.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jerry H. Ratcliffe.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Ratcliffe, J.H., Lattanzio, M., Kikuchi, G. et al. A partially randomized field experiment on the effect of an acoustic gunshot detection system on police incident reports. J Exp Criminol 15, 67–76 (2019).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: