Detroit City Council approves contract to expand ShotSpotter surveillance technology

Detroit – The Detroit City Council voted 5-4 to approve a new contract to expand a technology that purportedly uses a network of sensors to detect gunfire and direct law enforcement to the scene of a shooting.

ShotSpotter has drawn skepticism from Detroit residents and organizations, like the ACLU of Michigan, who say the technology is a privacy concern and intrusive. Opponents who spoke at a Security Council hearing on Tuesday said the technology could lead police to the wrong places and put innocent people at risk. Some residents did show up to support the technology.

The pilot program was used in Detroit’s 8th and 9th districts, which did show a 27 percent drop in gun violence, according to data released by the city, with no differences outside of those areas. Funding for the program comes from pandemic relief funds the city receives from the federal government.

The city said fewer than 10 percent of shootings detected by ShotSpotter among pilots resulted in Detroit police calling 911, which they said meant residents did not call to report shootings.

Racial justice advocates say the technology does not address the underlying causes of the increase in violence and will only lead to more black people in prison. They also said that pandemic funding could be better spent on a city that has high demand for residents.

Detroit Police Chief James White has been a proponent of the technology, calling it “race neutral,” saying it can’t detect the race of a shot, only the sound of a gunshot. But the technology is being implemented in a black-majority city and Latino community. Detroit Mayor Mike Dugan has been an ardent supporter of the expansion.

Other cities experimenting with the technology, including San Antonio, Trenton and Troy, New York, have canceled their contracts with ShotSpotter. Detroit voted last week to extend the existing pilot program through 2024.

Local 4’s Shawn Ley will learn more about what it all means tonight on Local 4 News at 5 and 6 pm.

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