Pasadena will soon be the first city in Los Angeles County to use ShotSpotter, a voice-recognition system that aims to reduce shooting and gun violence. City Council, which approved it in a 7-1 vote in October, is paying ShotSpotter Inc. $640,000 for a 3-year contract.
The city has been beset by an increase in gun violence in recent months and the system is among the options city leaders are trying to tackle the problem.
Following the shooting of the Pasadena teenager, the system will be installed by early 2022, Deputy Chief of the Pasadena Police Department Cheryl Moody said Monday. Iran Moreno, a 13-year-old boy, was playing a video game Saturday evening when a stray bullet shot through a bedroom window at a home in the North-West Zone-Balvaneda. The police is still looking for clues in the case and the health of the public.
The ShotSpotter technology has been touted as an increasing police response and keeping neighborhoods safe. But an Associated Press investigation and other reports have said the system is flawed and has questioned its ability to reduce gun violence. They also argue that this could lead to over-policing.
The company, which is relocating its headquarters to Fremont, has contracts with 120 cities in the US, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and South Africa.
Here’s a summary of how the system works and what supporters and critics say.
Where will ShotSpotter be used in Pasadena?
This technology will be installed in an area of 3 square miles in the North-West part of the city. Pasadena Police spokesman Lieutenant Bill Griseff said the area’s boundaries would be Montana Street to the north, Hill Avenue to the east, and the 210 freeway to the south and west. The company, which will install the censors, said it does not promote locations to protect the privacy of those who agree to have censors on their property and to prevent retaliation against them.
ShotSpotter did not provide a date for when the technology would be operational in Pasadena. But the company said that in general, it may take 2 to 4 months from contract signing to live.
How does this work?
ShotSpotter places the sensor on top of buildings or light poles. Sensors listen for loud, impulsive sounds that could be gunshots,
The software filters the data from the sensor and indicates whether the sound is a gunshot. The recorded audio is sent to ShotSpotter’s incident review centers, where, the company says, acoustic experts determine whether it is gunshots, playing the recorded sounds and visually analyzing the audio waves. to see if they match the specific gunfire pattern. If the reviewers thought the sound was a gunshot or gunshot, an alert was sent to police within 60 seconds via mobile data terminals in police cars, desktop computers, cell phones and even smartwatches. Is sent. Information in the alert includes location, address, number of shots fired and number of shots fired on the map, according to Shotspotter.
What do lawyers say?
Sam Klepper, senior vice president of marketing and product strategy at ShotSpotter, said there was a 60 to 65% reduction in homicides and other gun-related injuries in West Palm Beach, while there was a 35 to 35 percent reduction in murders between 2014 and 2017 after the adoption of ShotSpotter in Miami. % had decreased.
He said 101 gunmen were helped by police because of a shotspotter alert in Oakland last year. He said none of those shootings were reported to 911.
In Chicago, despite criticism of the system by the Office of the Inspector General, Mayor Lori Lightfoot called ShotSpotter, along with cameras and police high-tech support centers, “a lifesaver”.
ShotSpotter was first established in 2015 for a one-year period in North Sacramento. It was then placed in South Sacramento in 2017 and east in 2018. Last year, the Sacramento City Council passed a resolution to extend the contract with ShotSpotter through June 14, 2025 at a cost of $2.5 million. According to the Sacramento Bee, Black Lives Matter members protested outside City Hall.
But, Sacramento Police said in a statement, “With ShotSpotter technology, detectives are able to conduct follow-up investigations on shot fired calls that sometimes go unreported to the police department.
“These investigations have led to the arrest of people who are illegally possessing firearms or recklessly discharging them in our community. There have also been some murder investigations where the department was only notified via Shotspotter activation. stated in.
“This is the future of policing in the next 10-20 years,” said Pasadena Police Chief John Perez. “That will be the way we get to your neighborhood.”
What do the residents of Pasadena say?
Like dozens of moms across town who have lost a loved one to gun violence, Cecilia Solano lives in fear every time she hears a gunshot sound outside her door. “I tremble and tremble at night when I hear these blasts,” Solano said after meeting with city leaders outside her home last month. “It’s not knowing what bothers me the most. It’s always like, is that fireworks or a gunshot?”
Solano’s neighbor David Kalbitzer feels that the neighborhood can only be known through the use of technology, which is why he fully supports using ShotSpotter.
“Even if it is not on this road, I want this whole area to be safe without question that you can get around and out. Every neighbor deserves it,” Kalbitzer said after the meeting. “It’s been an amazing road. I think we shouldn’t have any problems but I would say things are definitely changing.”
But dozens of residents have asked the city to invest $600,000 in community programs.
“We can’t get our way out of this issue,” said Michael Williams, who called on City Council on November 8. Yet you try to tap dance… passing a bill that gives one device over $600,000 in three years, a system by Shotspotter, instead of giving money to the community.”
Where has technology come under fire?
In a report released in August, the Office of the Inspector General of Public Safety Section in Chicago said that the police department’s data examined “does not support the conclusion that ShotSpotter is an effective tool in developing evidence of a gun-related crime.” “
The Inspector General’s Office found that between January 1, 2020 and May 31 of this year, more than 50,000 Shotspotter alerts were confirmed as probable gunshots, but actual evidence of a gun-related crime was found in about 4,500 instances, about 9%.
However, Tom Ahern, a spokesman for the Chicago Police Department, said that ShotSpotter has detected hundreds of shootings that would not have been reported otherwise.
“Instead of relying on the historically low rate of 911 calls, law enforcement responds more quickly to locate and assist victims, identify witnesses, and collect forensic evidence,” Chicago Police said in a statement. can give.”
ShotSpotter also defended its system, citing an audit the company commissioned to study the technology’s effectiveness.
“The OIG report does not reflect negatively on the accuracy of ShotSpotter, which has been independently audited at 97 percent based on feedback from more than 120 customers,” the company said.
A study analyzing crime in 68 large metropolitan counties around the US in the Journal of Urban Health concluded, “Applying ShotSpotter technology has no significant impact on the outcomes of firearms-related homicides or arrests. Urban Firearms.” Policy solutions may represent a more cost-effective way to reduce violence.”
And the Associated Press said its investigation found that “the system could miss live gunfire under its microphone and misclassify the sound of backfiring cars or fireworks as gunfire. Forensic reports prepared by employees have been used in court to unreasonably claim that a defendant fired at police, or provide dubious counts of the number of shots allegedly fired by defendants. In the cases, the judges have rejected the evidence.”
ShotSpotter denied the AP report’s allegations in a written statement.
In the company’s response, Ralph A. Clark, President and CEO of ShotSpotter, said that it is incorrect to say that ShotSpotter has not been tested in court. Shotspotter evidence and expert witness testimony have been successfully accepted in more than 200 court cases in 20 states, he said.
“As in any court proceeding, that evidence and testimony are open to cross-examination, whether from the defense or the prosecution. In this way, the Shotspotter is like any other form of evidence presented in a criminal case. Like fingerprints, both sides have the opportunity to observe and engage in cross-examination,” said Clarke.
Who objected to the technology in Pasadena?
In addition to residents who called on the city council to protest, the ACLU of Southern California was one of several groups that signed a letter urging the council not to approve the contract with Shotspotter.
Mohamed Tajsar, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Southern California and a Pasadena resident, said the ACLU will keep a close eye on how police deploy technology and, in particular, how technology will affect communities of color and the poor in Pasadena. .
Tjasar said that ShotSpotter would lead to more police liaison with young black and brown people.
“What the researchers taught us about ShotSpotter is that it will cause more problems than it solves,” he said.
Klepper said that ShotSpotter does not lead to over-policing, but “addresses under-service in communities experiencing frequent gunfire.” He said all residents, regardless of their caste or geographic location, deserve a rapid police response.
“In itself, ShotSpotter is not a cure, but it is an important part of a comprehensive gun crime response strategy that saves lives, improves evidence collection and builds community trust,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.