Sound Thinking
Law Enforcement

Best Gunshot Detection System

Home / Best Gunshot Detection System

Law enforcement agencies often consider a gunshot detection system because of the following realities:

  • Over 80% of gunfire goes unreported to 9-1-1, which results in officers not being able to respond to gunfire incidents because they aren’t reported. Without a timely and accurate response, victims are more likely to bleed out, potential evidence goes uncollected, and communities develop the false impression that police don’t care.
  • Currently, measuring gunfire response time is time-consuming and difficult to navigate in CAD systems, making it difficult to improve on this critical metric.
  • Studies show that many 9-1-1 callers’ reports of where gunfire occurred are often not accurate, meaning that officers lose valuable time driving around looking for the right location that could be better spent tending to gunshot wound victims, collecting evidence, and interviewing witnesses.
  • Fewer shell casings and weapons are collected at scenes where the precise location of gunfire has not been identified, making it difficult to move investigations forward and clear cases.
  • Lack of visibility into the precise areas where high levels of gunfire are occurring makes it difficult to create effective community safety/gun violence prevention programs.
  • Without comprehensive reporting features and functionality for every step of the investigative process, law enforcement agencies are at risk of increased criticism and scrutiny.

For law enforcement agencies struggling with the above pain points, the best next step is a gunshot detection system that allows officers to respond promptly and accurately and provides a suite of reporting capabilities that support both urgent gunfire response as well as the longer-term investigative process.

In this post, we’ll provide an overview of ShotSpotter gunshot detection technology, and then review all the factors you should consider when deciding on a gunshot detection system for your agency.

Note: ShotSpotter was built to solve all of the pain points identified above. You can read about it in detail below or reach out to our sales team if you want to see exactly how it can help improve your agency’s gunfire response.

Schedule a Call

ShotSpotter Gunshot Detection System


ShotSpotter is an acoustic gunshot detection system that alerts police of virtually all gunfire within a city’s coverage area within 60 seconds. ShotSpotter with over 90% of the market share, serves more than 150 cities and from 2019-2021 the system had an over 97% aggregate accuracy rate across all customers. Importantly, ShotSpotter also reports a very small false positive rate of less than 0.5% of all reported gunfire incidents.

Key Feature # 1: 24×7 Incident Review Center (IRC) Verifies Accuracy of Every Gunfire Alert, Enabling Police to Provide Prompt and Effective Response

A powerful and accurate gunshot detection system doesn’t rely solely on AI algorithms to classify gunfire, since that can result in a high percentage of false positives.


While ShotSpotter has an advanced machine-learning algorithm that intelligently filters out fireworks, exhaust backfire and other impulsive noises, our experience over 20 years suggests that this is not enough to ensure accuracy.

After a machine review, ShotSpotter gunshot data are then reviewed by the trained acoustic specialists in the 24X7 Incident Review Center (IRC). Once confirmed, IRC staff publish an alert to law enforcement, which specifies:

  • the number of rounds,
  • the location within a 25-meter radius,
  • the exact location and the nearest street address,
  • the exact time of the shooting,
  • if the event involves multiple shooters,
  • possible drive-by, and
  • if there is a high-capacity or fully automatic firearm involved.

This is a process that, all together, takes less than 60 seconds.

For example, if a gun is fired in a coverage area in the City of Chicago, multiple sensors detect and time stamp the sound, and the precise location is indicated by a dot on the map. Once an alert is generated it is immediately sent to our 24X7 IRC where trained acoustic experts then analyze and verify if the incident is gunfire. Once verified, the trained acoustic expert publishes the alert, and the police are notified and dispatched to the scene.

Key Feature # 2: Response Time Reporting Enables Agencies to Easily Monitor How Quickly They Respond to Gunfire

Currently, most command staff looking for insight into how quickly their officers are responding to gunshot alerts must sift through CAD systems, which can be difficult to access and time-consuming.

ShotSpotter’s Response Time Reporting feature enables agencies to easily monitor how quickly they respond to gunfire. Critical performance data around the speed of response broken down by beat and district is now easy to access and track.


For example, all an officer needs to do within the ShotSpotter app to ensure that their response time is accurately measured is to consent to sharing their location data within the app. After that, the response time reporting is seamlessly updated, enabling command staff to measure their response time performance using the data collected.

Key Feature # 3: Ground Truth Reporting Improves Documentation Around Evidence Collection

Following a gun crime incident, prompt evidence collection and effective documentation of evidence collected is essential as it greatly increases the likelihood that a case will be solved in a timely manner.

With ShotSpotter’s Ground Truth feature, officers can enter information regarding any ground truth they find at a scene (such as a victim, shell casings, or property damage), and they can enter that information directly in the application, making it easier to track.


For example, let’s say an officer responds to a gunfire incident in Chicago and, after canvassing the area, finds several shell casings. With the Ground Truth reporting feature, they can input this critically important information directly in the app.

Crime analysts and command staff can log into the InSight app to home in on the “ground truth” status for any incident, facilitating the ability to generate Ground Truth reports, while also making it easy for officers, investigators, and command staff across the agency to see if evidence was collected without needing to go into each case in the CAD or RMS system.


Key Feature #4: In-Depth Reporting Around Gunfire Trends Can Facilitate the Development of Impactful Gun Violence Prevention Initiatives

Granular insight into the factors surrounding high volumes of gunfire (such as the day, time, beat, district, or location broken down by block), can help command staff and crime analysts determine the areas of highest risk in their communities and work with key non-law enforcement stakeholders to build impactful public safety programs that address gun violence prevention on a holistic level.

With ShotSpotter’s comprehensive reporting of the time and day when gunfire has historically occurred using the InSight app, agencies can accurately assess gunfire hot spots broken down by beat/district/time of day and more and effectively collaborate with critical non-law enforcement stakeholders to build impactful gun violence prevention initiatives.


For example, command staff in St. Louis, MO that are looking for more information about the time of day, days of the week, or the ten blocks in a ShotSpotter coverage area that have the highest levels of gunfire would only need to pull up that relevant report within the InSight app to gather this information. They could then opt to share this information with relevant community stakeholders (such as mental health specialists, victim services, community violence interrupters, school counselors and administrators, and more) in order to establish data-informed gun violence prevention programs.

Key Feature #5: Investigative Lead Services and Forensic Services for Every Step of the Investigative Process

Effective management of a gunfire incident requires both an immediate response as well as a sound strategy regarding the longer-term investigative process. A critical component of this longer-term strategy includes comprehensive reporting for every stage of the investigative process, from immediate follow-up to presenting evidence in court, oftentimes months later.

In this arena, ShotSpotter offers two critical resources: the Investigative Lead Summary report as well as Forensic Services. These are two offerings that no other competitor in the marketplace offers, that ultimately set command staff and attorneys up for success at every stage of the investigative process.

The Investigative Lead Summary (ILS) provides valuable data on the location, sequence, and timing of each round fired in a gun shooting incident and is designed to enable investigators to conduct better interviews of witnesses, suspects, and victims, as well as lead to better collection of evidence. The ILS is available from the mobile, web or desktop versions of the ShotSpotter app to assist officers on scene responding to a ShotSpotter alert.


ShotSpotter’s Forensic Services and Litigation Support provides services including critical examination of ShotSpotter evidentiary data and reports to help improve understanding of a shooting incident and can aid trial attorneys in their presentation of the shooting incident to a jury through the use of our forensic services and products. One such product is the Detailed Forensic Report (DFR), a court-admissible analysis of a shooting incident captured by the ShotSpotter system that is produced by expert forensic engineers. ShotSpotter evidence and ShotSpotter expert witness testimony have been successfully admitted in over 200 court cases in 22 states.


Looking to improve your agency’s gunfire response? Reach out to our sales team to see if SoundThinking makes sense for your agency.

A Checklist for Assessing the Best Gunshot Detection System

  1. Does the system ensure 97%+ accuracy with trained acoustic specialists within a formal incident review center?
  2. Does the system have a track record of less than 0.5% false positive alerts?
  3. Does the system offer response time reporting for easy monitoring and tracking of gunfire incidents?
  4. Does the system offer a robust ground truth reporting capability for tracking evidence collection?
  5. Does the system offer in-depth reporting around gunfire trends?
  6. Does the system provide robust investigative lead and forensic services to facilitate and improve the investigative process?

and finally, is there a track record of successful deployments in the field to verify performance in the real world?

Following this checklist along with your other specific criteria will help you confidently recommend the best gunshot detection system for your community.

Ready to Try ShotSpotter?

It’s critically important for law enforcement to respond to gunfire in a timely, accurate, and comprehensive way to save lives, expedite investigations, build community trust, and improve public safety. The comprehensive reporting capabilities and the Forensic Services that ShotSpotter offers make it possible to achieve all of this.

Looking to improve your agency’s gunfire response? Reach out to our sales team to see if SoundThinking makes sense for your agency.

Schedule a Call

a man in a black suit and blue shirt
Author Profile
Milton Howard
Milton Howard is Vice President, Product Management at SoundThinking. He has more than 20 years of leadership...Show More
Milton Howard is Vice President, Product Management at SoundThinking. He has more than 20 years of leadership experience in product management, product marketing, and business development. Prior to joining ShotSpotter, Milton was the head of product for Innovative, Inc. where he led the creation of a new mobile services cloud platform spawning thousands of new third-party applications. Milton holds an M.S. in Computer Science & Engineering from the University of Michigan and a B.S. in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley.Show Less