Should Detroit spend ARPA funds to expand ShotSpotter in the city?

Detroit City Council is expected to vote on expanding the controversial program next week.

This week, Detroit City Council approved $1.5 million to renew ShotSpotter, while delaying a vote on whether to spend $7 million in ARPA funds to expand it. According to the California based company, ShotSpotter is a system designed to detect gunfire by triangulating the sound of gunshots with a series of sensors deployed across an area.

Critics state the system has shown inadequate evidence of improving safety and say the city should spend funds elsewhere. Meanwhile, Detroit Police Chief James White says gun-related incidents have declined by as much as 43% in some areas covered by ShotSpotter.

The next vote is scheduled to occur on Tuesday, October 6.

“Our study found that the implementation of ShotSpotter technology was not associated with decreases in firearm homicides.” — Mitchell Doucette, Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions.

Listen: The arguments for and against expanding ShotSpotter in Detroit.



Mitchell Doucette is an assistant scientist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence and author of “Impact of ShotSpotter Technology on Firearm Homicides and Arrests Among Large Metropolitan Counties: a Longitudinal Analysis, 1999-2016.” He says his research revealed no evidence that ShotSpotter significantly impacted firearm related homicides or arrest outcomes.

“Our study found that the implementation of ShotSpotter technology was not associated with decreases in firearm homicides,” says Doucette. “It’s our recommendation that potentially more evidence-based solutions are implemented in communities to reduce firearm violence.”

Nancy Parker in the managing attorney at the Detroit Justice Center. She says ShotSpotter cannot keep the public safe because it is not a preventative tool. Instead, it’s a surveillance tool that over-deploys police unnecessarily.

“We should not be under the thumb of the government, especially when that surveillance does not lead to safety, but leads to harm and over criminalization,” says Parker.

Franklin Hayes is a Deputy Chief of Police with the Detroit Police Department. He says ShotSpotter has had a positive impact where it has been deployed. Further, it is a tool to reduce firearm use in conjunction with other resources.

“Chief White has said on many occasions that ShotSpotter is not an ‘all’ or an ‘either,’ it’s an ‘and,'” says Hayes. “With this, we truly believe we can change behavior in other parts of the city.”

Eli Newman is a reporter and producer for 101.9 WDET, covering breaking news, politics and community affairs. He says he believes city council will vote to approve the proposal on Tuesday.

“As indicated by councilmembers, I think the yay’s have it,” says Newman. “It does seem there is support for this contract.”

Photo courtesy of ShotSpotter.

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