Experts: NYPD leads nation in high-tech crime-fighting gear

Police bomb squad members prepare a robotic camera

Police bomb squad members prepare a robotic camera in Times Square near Broadway during an investigation into a suspicious abandoned van. (Dec. 30, 2009) (Credit: Getty Images)

The NYPD may not be at the point where it can deploy its own RoboCop to patrol the streets, but its high-tech gear is on the cutting edge of crime fighting.

From high-definition cameras to social networking trackers, experts say the NYPD leads the nation when it comes to 21st century policing, and the agency is still looking for new gadgets.

One particular tool the NYPD might explore would be able to pinpoint a gunshot within minutes of it going off.

"When you hear a gunshot, it's anyone's guess where it came from," said Councilman Peter Vallone, chairman of the City Council's Public Safety Committee, who has been pushing the department to test out the device in Astoria, the neighborhood he represents.

"With the new technology, we can find it within feet."

ShotSpotter, which is being used by the Nassau County Police Department, recognizes gunshots through detectors on rooftops, according to the company's spokeswoman, Lydia Barrett.

If there's a loud noise within a detector's range, the info is sent to analysts in California who confirm if it's a gunshot. The information, which includes the near-exact location, is then transmitted to the local precinct in seconds.

"They may not be able to find the shooter, but they can go to the nearby houses and knock on doors," Barrett said.

The spokeswoman couldn't go into complete detail about a potential negotiation with New York City authorities, but said the NYPD has expressed interest in the detectors. The NYPD wouldn't confirm this, though.

If approved, the gunshot detector would join a long list of tools police are using. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly spoke about some of these initiatives during recent testimony before the City Council.

Among the technologies in use, being tested or in the pipeline are a "terahertz" camera that could detect if a person is carrying a gun; a computer database; prescription tracking; and cameras and social networking monitors.

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