December 15, 2010

Spotted here first

Filed under: Honolulu Politics — Doug @ 6:22 pm

Well, well, well.

Kudos to KITV and KHON for reporting about a community meeting where a presentation was made by a company that is in the business of helping law enforcement agencies locate the source of gunshots and other noises made by illegal activity. Honolulu City Council Chair Nestor Garcia (my original boss at the Lege, back in the day) hosted the events in our/my neighborhood where Ed Jopeck of Shotspotter described the equipment which is used to pinpoint the location of gunfire and explosions by triangulating on the sound produced.

As it happens, I wrote to Shotspotter back on November 21, 2010:

I write a blog about Hawaii politics. On the island of Oahu we have a huge amount of illegal aerial fireworks and improvised bombs(!) that are detonated by normally-law-abiding people to celebrate New Years Eve, with a window of about one month before and after that sees a build-up and taper-off from that single night of intense activity. Around Independence Day there is a smaller version of the same anarchy. Despite literally thousands of offenses, the authorities typically make only one or two arrests per year and claim that the arrest rate is so low because the LEO (or a member of the public willing to testify for the prosecution) must actually witness the offense being committed. People with respiratory ailments and nervous pets of all kinds are affected.

Would your shotspotter system be effective in pinpointing the location of illegal aerial fireworks and bombs in a mid-density urban environment? Would you be willing to demonstrate your system this year in my community and perhaps shame local LE into taking more aggressive action? Does the system produce evidence that would stand up in court and obviate the need for a citizen to “rat” on his or her neighbor?

To see how crazy it gets, take a look at the video I shot from my 9th floor balcony last year:

This is not a joke. Can you help?

I received an auto-response to the effect that the press officer was on vacation for Thanksgiving. Finally, on December 3, I got an acknowledgment of my email—claiming that my message had gone into a spam folder by mistake. My inquiry was to be fielded by Mr. Jopeck. But nothing came of it. I pinged the press officer again on December 10, letting her know that Jopeck had not responded.

Three days ago, on December 13, Mr. Jopeck responds, telling me that, what else, my email had been in his spam folder. He then informed me that he would be in Waipahu, meeting with Nestor Garcia … the next day(!), and he invited me to join them. Jopeck also said he planned to meet with the Honolulu Police and Fire Departments. I had other plans for Tuesday evening already, so I did not attend.

An excerpt from what Jopeck wrote:

As luck [sic] would have it, I am leaving my current home near Washington DC this morning to come to Honolulu for three days (Dec 14-16). The primary purpose for my trip is, at the request of Honolulu City Council Chairman Nestor Garcia [sic], to meet and address a community meeting in Waipahu on exactly this issue. I will be happy to give a demonstration of our solution at or after this meeting. I hope you will consider coming to the city council meeting to hear my presentation and so that we can meet. While I am in Honolulu, I will also be meeting with Honolulu Police and Fire Department representatives.

Luck?! At the request of Garcia?!

Whatever you say, Mr. Jopeck. Heh.

Anyway, from the KITV story:

Council Chairman Nestor Garcia, who represents Waipahu, wants the city to seriously consider the technology to combat illegal fireworks, especially once consumer fireworks are banned on Oahu starting Jan. 2.

“We know that there is a problem out there. We hear it every night. Even last night, I heard it. The problem is trying to detect it under the cover of darkness. With this technology, as I’ve been told, it might be able to solve that problem for us,” Garcia said.

The technology costs roughly $250,000 for the first square mile and about $200,000 per additional square mile after that, according to Jopeck.

That sounds expensive, but this is a seasonal problem. Does the technology cost $250,000 per square mile per … year? per month? per week? per day? If $250,000 is the annual rate, then setting up the system for a month suddenly sounds much more affordable. The story also mentions the possibility of using Shotspotter during the upcoming APEC meeting. Doesn’t the Department of Homeland Security (or some other federal agency) have a budget for making grants to host cities to defray security expenses?

How about a free sample for a week, Mr. Jopeck? My dog, Perl, would like to spend a quiet evening without needing to cower under my bed!

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