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Sensors ID 17 Shootings Daily in Washington

Fuse/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Acoustic sensors that alert police departments to gunshots have helped police in Washington, D.C., respond to thousands of shooting incidents, an investigation by the Washington Post revealed this week.

The sensors, made by the company ShotSpotter of Newark, Calif., identify gunshots and their locations, sending a signal to police and to ShotSpotter headquarters. The police can then dispatch officers to a precise location based on where the sensors heard the shots, according to the Washington Post.

The sensors, developed in the 1990s, are now used across the United States., including Chicago, Atlantic City, N.J., Palm Beach, Fla., and Kansas City, Mo., according to the company’s website. ShotSpotters has not returned ABC News’ calls for comment.

The ShotSpotter was more accurate in distinguishing which loud noises were actually gunshots, as opposed to cars backfiring, construction noise or helicopters, former D.C. police chief Charles Ramsey told the paper.

The sensors also help inform police of an exact location where a shooter might be by using multiple sensors in the area to transmit data at once, according to the report.

The sensors were developed in the mid-1990s by Robert Showen, an engineer in California who was dismayed by gun crimes in his area, according to the report. They were first implemented in D.C. as part of a federal grant in 2005.

“Wrapped in a weatherproof container roughly the size of a watermelon, each ShotSpotter sensor combines microphones, hardware, software and a clock linked to the Global Positioning System, which uses satellites and radio navigation to pinpoint precise times and locations,” according to the report.

They have recorded about 39,000 shots since 2009, according to the Post, or 17 shootings daily.

The Metropolitan Police declined to provide a comment to ABC News.

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