shotspotter.jpgShotSpotter, a Santa Clara, CA, company that enables police departments and the military to locate the precise source of gunfire, has raised $12 million in its third round of financing.

The technology, which is deployed in neighborhoods throughout 15 American cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles, Oakland, and DC, enabled the capture of a top-10 most wanted fugitive, provided the first physical evidence in the Ohio sniper case, and caused a decrease in gunfire by some 60 to 80 percent in the areas in which it has been used, according to the company.

When a gun goes off, wireless sensors spread throughout a neighborhood register the instant the sound wave reaches them, using GPS to pinpoint the moment to within 20 nanoseconds. The sensors then transmit the timing data to a server within the police department’s control. This server makes the calculations necessary to triangulate the source of the sound and, within 5-10 seconds of the shot being fired, specially-equipped police cars on patrol get both the precise origin of the shot and a playback of its audio signature, allowing the officers to determine how many shots were fired and make a tactical decision from there.

Considering that only approximately one in five instances of gunfire go reported, and that these reports usually come only 3-5 minutes after the fact, the usefulness of ShotSpotter’s technology, which registers every instance of gun fire and reports it in nearly real-time, is obvious.

This is also clear in military applications, where even five seconds is a long time. ShotSpotter’s Chief Executive Officer, James Beldock, said he can’t discuss much about its relationship with the Department of Defense, but did say that the marines are using the technology in Iraq, and that it works with unmanned aerial vehicles that can point a camera directly at the source of the gunfire almost the instant shots go off.

This gets us to thinking: Had ShotSpotter’s technology been deployed in Dallas on November 22nd, 1963, maybe we’d know for sure if there had been a second gunner on the grassy knoll..

Levensohn Venture Partners led the round, and was joined by Labrador Ventures, Claremont Creek Ventures, City Light Capital and first-round leader Lauder Partners. We covered an earlier round of funding here.