Fayetteville, North Carolina (WTVD) — Some Fayetteville residents opposed the city’s plan to install ShotSpotter, a gunshot detection technology. The technology is designed to help law enforcement fight crime by more quickly identifying where gun activity is taking place. However, during an information session on the system this week, critics were taking aim at the technology’s credibility.
So far, the reaction from residents who came out to get ShotSpotter from Wednesday’s information session has been overwhelmingly negative. They told ABC11 they were concerned the technology was unreliable. Critics point out that the gunshot detection technology has yet to be scientifically proven, despite positive reviews from some police departments in other cities.
Critics also worry that false gunshot readings could lead to wrongful arrests, convictions and dangerous, if not fatal, encounters with police. They worry that black people and other minorities could be profiled if police officers are motivated to make arrests in an area because of recent gun activity.
“If I’m shooting in the neighborhood and I’m doing something wrong, I’m not going to hang around after the shot to get caught. But, in my case, if I can’t hear the hearing aid and I’m alone, I couldn’t hear the gunshots. If I was in the house. I would probably walk outside at the same time the police arrived. I would be a suspect,” said James Buxton, president of the Fayetteville NAACP chapter .
Police reform nonprofit Movement Zero has been one of ShotSpotter’s most vocal critics.
Campaign Zero advocate Abby Magaraci said she once worked in a 911 call center and experienced first-hand how ineffective ShotSpotter was for emergency responders.
“The people at ShotSpotter are great at giving great pitches on what ShotSpotter should be and what they say it will do,” she says. “But the research doesn’t back that up, and we also know that in reality, that doesn’t happen in emergencies, especially first responders. Shotspotter would disappear and we wouldn’t have the information we need to dispatch the appropriate First responders. We’re getting better information from 911 calls coming directly from civilians.”
One thing that frustrates residents, however, is that the City Council has voted to allocate $200,000 a year to contract ShotSpotter without asking for feedback from residents.
“This technology doesn’t have the confidence it advertises. It’s technology that can be used and built on in the community, but in terms of how effective the technology is, I think a $200,000 investment could have been used to empower some of our communities Policing programs, gang prevention and other ways we could have addressed gun violence in our communities,” said Johnnette Henderson.
Valerie Simpson added: “They didn’t communicate with the people in the town. They didn’t communicate with these communities and let us know there are pros and cons to everything. They didn’t do that, and I really don’t think it’s fair.”
Campaign Zero has a special message for future city officials considering ShotSpotter.
“There are a lot of cities that can talk to people who have tried this technology and they realize it’s not what it’s advertised to be and move on. So we’d say that before cities get stuck trying and realize it’s not the same location as advertised. With Talk to those who have already been through the process,” said Jacob Wourms,
ShotSpotter’s statement reads:
According to the Brookings Institution, more than 80 percent of shootings go unreported to 911. ShotSpotter is an acoustic gunshot detection system that fills the data gap by reporting to police within 60 seconds nearly every shooting in a city’s ShotSpotter coverage area. With 135 more cities using ShotSpotter and a 99% renewal rate, we believe our technology will help make communities safer by enabling faster and more accurate police responses to shootings than 911, thereby helping Save the lives of victims and find key evidence.
The ShotSpotter system is so accurate that independent validation by data analytics firm Edgeworth Analytics has shown a 97 percent detection accuracy rate for all police department clients over the past three years. The ShotSpotter sensor listens for loud, impulsive sounds that could be gunshots – bangs, booms and bangs. Once captured, ShotSpotter’s computer eliminates sounds that are clearly not gunshots, such as fireworks or helicopters. Remaining sounds are immediately sent to and reviewed by trained acoustic experts in our 24×7 Incident Review Center, who are able to play back recorded sounds and visually analyze audio waveforms to see if they fit typical gunshot patterns, assess groupings or participation sensor and either announce the incident to police as a shooting or dismiss it as not. ShotSpotter auditors are only deployed if they can detect gunshots with 99 percent accuracy or better. The company continuously monitors the performance of human reviewers and provides additional training when needed.
To help address the root causes of gun violence, ShotSpotter’s Data for Good initiative, led by our Community Engagement Team, shares data on where shootings occur so community violence intervention groups, schools and mental health professionals can provide services, counseling and financial assistance .
There is zero data to support claims that ShotSpotter put police on high alert or created a dangerous situation. Instead, ShotSpotter provides police officers with more information than they might normally have when they arrive at the scene of a shooting, and they arrive at the scene more informed.
Cities that use ShotSpotter report that they consistently find shooting victims when no one is calling 911. For example, Oakland police reported that in 2020 they were able to locate and coordinate an immediate medical response to 101 surviving victims. Pittsburgh announced that ShotSpotter is the only mechanism reporting to first responders that they saved the lives of 13 shooting victims in two years. West Palm Beach, Florida was recognized by the US Conference of Mayors for working with ShotSpotter to save the lives of local residents.
Fayetteville police and the city government have not yet responded to our request for comment on questions from residents.
The final ShotSpotter info session will be held Friday at noon via Zoom.
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