To buy, or not to buy, that is the question the Detroit City Council must answer regarding a $2.6 million contract for a gunfire detection system.
The proposal to purchase the gunfire detection system, known as ShotSpotter, was brought to the Council by Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee.
At a Detroit Public Health and Safety meeting last month, Chief Godbee called ShotSpotter a “powerful technology” for law enforcement and suggested that the system would be paid for using drug forfeiture and federal grant money.
How does ShotSpotter work?
Essentially ShotSpotter uses strategically located microphones and sensors to detect gunfire. If a gunshot is detected, the microphones triangulate the sound to pinpoint precisely where the shot was fired. The system can also estimate what type of weapon was used in a shooting.
If the Detroit City Council approves the three-year contract with SST Inc, the company that developed ShotSpotter, then the system will be installed in two trial areas covering approximately 6-square miles.
ShotSpotter has no shortage of fans at police agencies across the country. For example, Rochester Police Department (NY) claimed that, “The city of Rochester has seen a 43% reduction in gunfire since the system went live… Within 48 hours of turning the system on we had our first felony arrest.”
Other agencies find it equally useful. “We are creating omnipresence in the minds of the criminal community, which means they think the police presence is anywhere and everywhere,” said a Saginaw, MI Police Detective.
But not everyone on the Council is convinced that ShotSpotter is right for Detroit, a city struggling to keep up with its crime.
According to Mlive.com, Council President Pro Tem Gary Brown is preparing to vote against the contract, suggesting that the police department does not have the resources in place to utilize the technology.
“The weakest link in this is finding a car to send,” Brown told WJR-AM 760. “We have 911 runs that are backed up, probably right now, because we don’t have enough officers on the street to respond to them.”
Chief Godbee addressed this concern at an earlier meeting, telling naysayers he would dedicate staff and resources to respond to ShotSpotter alerts.
“It is obviously a very costly expenditure,” Chief Godbee admitted. “And if the technology is not used appropriately, as with every technology, it has very little effect.”
The Detroit City Council is expected to vote on the contract in the very near future.