October 19, 2023
By Johnmichael O’Hare, sales and business development lead at Cobwebs Technologies
This is the second blog in a series about open-source intelligence software (OSINT) integration with technology used in Real Time Crime Centers (RTCC), which combine humans and technology to analyze and investigate regional crimes, trends and incidents. The first article in the series described how gunshot technology and OSINT could work together to help communities and individuals traumatized by gunshot violence. OSINT serves as a conduit for stakeholders to use data collaboratively for violence prevention and trauma awareness.
Gun violence claims tens of thousands of lives every year. Integrating gunshot detection technology and OSINT can reduce gun violence and enhance public safety.
By combining the real-time incident reporting capabilities of gunshot detection systems with the deep data analysis capabilities of OSINT software, law enforcement can respond more effectively to gun violence incidents, prevent crimes and improve their overall situational awareness.
Moreover, OSINT solutions that work with gunshot detection technology bring law enforcement, community organizations and social service workers together. This combination provides them with the means to use data collaboratively for violence prevention and trauma awareness—as I discussed in my previous blog.
Gunshot detection technology uses a network of sensors, typically acoustic or optical, to detect and locate gunfire sources. These sensors are strategically placed in urban areas or high-risk locations and continuously detect gunshot sounds. Once a gunshot is heard, the system analyzes the audio data, determines the precise location of the incident and alerts law enforcement agencies in real time. These systems use machine learning algorithms to differentiate between gunshots and other ambient noises to avoid false positives.
That said, gunshot detection is only picking up gunshot sounds. To that end, people in the neighborhood could post other information and videos online about the incident to help investigators.
OSINT is the collection, interpretation and analysis of data from publicly accessible sources on the surface as well as the dark web. Additionally, investigators collect information from online accounts, forums, blog posts, news sources, articles, archives, interviews and freely accessible documents.
Artificial intelligence-powered OSINT solutions aggregate and analyze vast amounts of data. As a result, law enforcement and other stakeholders can derive valuable insights and actionable intelligence from this collected data. This information is crucial for investigating crimes, identifying threats and monitoring public sentiment.
- Real-Time Incident Reporting: The integration of gunshot detection technology with OSINT software provides immediate and automatic reporting of gunfire incidents to law enforcement agencies. This real-time data allows law enforcement to respond quickly and deploy resources to the precise location of the incident, which helps them save lives and apprehend suspects.
- Precise Incident Location: Gunshot detection systems provide precise incident location data, which can be enhanced by integrating with the geospatial mapping capabilities of OSINT software. Law enforcement agencies can visualize the incident locations, identify patterns, create graphs of relationships between persons of interest and allocate resources effectively.
- Corroborating Reported Shots Fired in the Absence of Physical Evidence: In some situations, law enforcement may receive shots fired calls for service and when officers arrive on scene, shell casings cannot be found. Witnesses refuse to come forward and reporting parties do not want to be seen by police. Integrating OSINT software helps law enforcement agencies verify gunshot incidents by cross-referencing with additional data sources.
- Comprehensive Data Analysis: By combining gunshot detection data with OSINT software, investigators can access and analyze additional information from online accounts, news reports and other publicly available incident data. Using OSINT, investigators can incorporate sentiment analysis of online posts and discussions to identify potential threats or trends in gun violence. A holistic data analysis approach provides a more comprehensive understanding of the situation, leading to better decision-making and more targeted investigations.
- Predictive Analytics: Using machine learning algorithms to analyze historical data, investigators can better predict high-risk areas and times when gun violence occurs, enabling more proactive law enforcement strategies.
Challenge: Data Integration and Interoperability
Integrating different technologies and data streams is complex. Smooth data integration, compatibility and interoperability among gunshot detection systems and OSINT software are essential for optimal results.
Fortunately, gunshot detection technology must collaborate with a host of systems. Vendors provide application programming interfaces (APIs) for tighter integration with their partners’ technologies. For instance, SoundThinking, the developer of ShotSpotter, works with approximately 20 integration partners and 50 cities to integrate gunshot alert data with other city systems, such as license plate readers, record management systems, computer-aided dispatch systems, predictive policing software, crime dashboards, access controls, geospatial software and drones.
A Powerful Tool for Gun Violence Prevention
As of June 2023, 300 mass shootings in which four or more victims were shot have occurred in the U.S., up 14% yearly, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Mass shootings typically occur during the summer months as more people are outdoors.
OSINT can easily integrate with gunshot detection technology to aid in violence prevention and disruption and enhance investigations. Using Cobweb Technologies’ AI-powered web intelligence platform, analysts can identify key people, or violence brokers, whom law enforcement should talk to, and create network graphs to show relationships between them and other people. Cobwebs’ web investigation platform is a powerful OSINT solution that searches online activity and collects and analyzes data from endless digital channels, including the open, deep and dark web.