DETROIT – Detroit City Council voted 5-4 to approve a new contract to expand a technology that supposedly uses a network of sensors to detect gunshots and direct law enforcement to a shooting scene.
ShotSpotter has drawn a bevy of skepticism from Detroit residents and organizations, like the ACLU of Michigan, who say the technology is a privacy issue and invasive. Opponents, who spoke at the Council’s hearing on Tuesday, said the technology could lead police to the wrong location, putting innocent people in danger. Some residents did show up in support of the technology.
The pilot program was used at the 8th and 9th precincts in Detroit, and data did show 27% drop in gun violence in the area, according to data released by the city, compared to no difference outside those districts. The program was originally being funded by pandemic relief money the city received from the federal government, but the revised contract moved the funding to general.
The city says that less than 10% of shots fired incidents detected by ShotSpotter in the pilot resulted in a 911 call to Detroit police, which they say means residents are not calling to report shots fired.
Racial justice advocates say the technology doesn’t fix the root cause of increasing violence and will only result in more Black people in prison. They also say pandemic funds could be put to better use in a city with plenty of needs for residents.
Detroit Police Chief James White has been a supporter of the technology, calling it “race-neutral,” saying it can’t detect the ethnicity of the gun shot, only that there were shots fired. But the technology is being implemented in a city was a majority Black population, and in Latino neighborhoods. Detroit mayor Mike Duggan has been an avid supporter of the expansion.
Other cities that tried a pilot for the technology, including San Antonio, Trenton, and Troy, New York, canceled their contracts with the ShotSpotter company. Detroit voted to extend the existing pilot program through 2024 last week.
Local 4′s Shawn Ley will have more on what this all means on Local 4 News at 5 and 6 tonight.