and although you could hear someone talking if they were standing directly below one, nobody would be listening," he said. "There's not even an audible component hooked up to it, just software that alerts the dispatcher when it detects a gun shot."

Overall, Miller said, residents in Redwood City have posed little resistance of any kind to the system. "People are excited to have anything happen to keep the gunfire down," she said. "There's nothing like taking a child and throwing him on the floor because you hear gun shots and you don't know if they're going to come through your house -- it's the scariest feeling."



Ultimate Surveillance

In what's being billed as a "high-tech neighborhood watch program," Baltimore recently installed a system that could be the ultimate in crime surveillance.

In January, Baltimore wired a 16-block area of downtown with enough video cameras to allow police to monitor every street, sidewalk and alley 24 hours-a-day. The system watches and records everything.

Police monitor the cameras inside a nearby kiosk. Each camera keeps a record of a given area for up to four days. The videos will be used both to alert the police that a crime is occurring and to record an event, so that a record exists of what happened in a certain area.

The new system could cost up to $1 million for the 16-block area alone.




Earlier this year, the Department of Defense awarded a $1.7 million contract to Alliant Techsystems to perfect a sensor system called the System for the Effective Control of Urban Environment Security (SECURES).

Alliant -- a U.S. aerospace and defense company headquartered in Minneapolis, Minn. -- is employing sonar technology developed for use in navel warfare and surveillance. Like Redwood City's system, SECURES will enable police to instantly detect, recognize and pinpoint the location of gunfire. The system is expected to reduce emergency response time by almost 80 percent.

Alliant recently conducted a series of tests using a cross-section of weapons and fireworks confiscated by the police department in Washington, D.C. The tests established a data set of high fidelity acoustic data relating to gunfire and similar events. This data was used to develop algorithms that allow SECURES to clearly distinguish gunfire from other urban noises with a low level of false alarms.

Operational evaluation of SECURES will take place this summer. The National Institute of Justice will select the city in which the prototype will be tested and will conduct the operational evaluation. SECURES is also being evaluated for use by the military for possible sniper detection.