Johns Hopkins Tests Gunshot Detection System

The campus safety and security unit of Johns Hopkins University recently collaborated with the Baltimore Police Department, Planning Systems, and consulting firm iXP Corp. to test a new system that can detect and locate gunfire in the Charles Village area, where the school's main campus is located. Baltimore police tactical units fired several live rounds into a sand-filled dump truck to demonstrate how sensors installed in the area and transmitted to a TV screen in the university's communication center could pinpoint the location of a gunshot. University security then notified Baltimore police, simulating an active shooter event.

This is the first installation of the system, known as SECURES, around a college or university campus. It's designed to add another layer of security to the university and Charles Village communities, which already include university "smart" closed-circuit television cameras, a cooperative relationship between police and campus officers, and other security measures.

The system relies on 93 sensors installed on city-owned streetlights and Johns Hopkins off-campus buildings. The sensors automatically detect a gunshot's acoustic signature and transmit related information wirelessly to a receiving station. That detection information is then forwarded within three to five seconds over a secure network connection to the communication center. At the center, the gunshot location is displayed on a 40-inch LCD screen with an alert indicating the nearest address and building for dispatch.

The sensors include technology that can differentiate gunfire from fireworks or vehicle backfire. A series of gunshots could indicate a running gunman and the SECURES system would track the direction of his travel.

In the event of a gunshot, the communication center would notify the Baltimore Police Department, which would dispatch officers.

"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. 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," said Edmund Skrodzki executive director for campus safety and security at the Homewood campus. "Being proactive and using the best technology tools available often deters crime, enhancing the safety and security of our students and our community." He said the gunshot detection system has a 90 percent accuracy rate with a false positive rate of seven percent.

The system, which was obtained at no cost to the university, was developed by Planning Systems, a technology firm that specializes in threat detection devices. PSI hopes to bring the technology to other institutions.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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