Durham leaders consider new technology to spot gunfire

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Durham leaders are considering the purchase of technology that could detect when and where gunshots are fired-without someone calling 911.

Crime analysts say most gunfire is underreported.

The technology is called ShotSpotter. Representatives from the California-based company presented the concept to the city council on Thursday. Durham Police Chief C.J. Davis recommended the gunfire detection system as a strategic goal to make neighborhoods in the Bull City safer.

ShotSpotter can detect the origin of shots fired within a 25-50 meter radius. ShotSpotter sensors would be placed in neighborhoods where shots fired or aggravated assaults are a challenge according to DPD.

Some key features of the technology include:

  • Constant, 360 acoustic surveillance throughout large coverage areas

  • Immediate alerts when no one calls 911

  • The number and exact time of rounds fired

  • Detailed forensic data

  • Expedited response to shooting victims, witnesses and evidence

  • Building community trust and relationship

  • Increased gun crime arrests

The technology is being used in law enforcement agencies across the country such as in Florida, Missouri, Minnesota, New York, Connecticut, Illinois, and Wilmington, North Carolina.

The Charlotte-Mecklinburg Police Department was using ShotSpotter but canceled the service.

A representative for ShotSpotter said CMPD ended the deal due to operational issues. But the rep told the city council most cities using the ShotSpotter saw a 35 percent reduction in gunfire in the areas where the sensors were located.

But some city leaders see red flags with ShotSpotter.

Some leaders mentioned the lack of concrete data from ShotSpotter regarding the device's effectiveness.

Other concerns included the cost and where to position the devices.

"I feel concerned about communities feeling targeted by the geo sensing," said Durham Councilwoman Vernetta Alston.

ShotSpotter's annual subscription would cost $235,000 in the first year, and then the price would decrease the following year.

Councilman Mark-Anthony Middleton said he would be willing to bring the concept to Durham.

"We could do a three-year experiment for under $1 million that could possibly result in lives being saved," said Middleton.

The city said it has not been determined who would foot the bill for the new technology.

Mayor Steve Schewel offered his support toward the proposal.

"I'll be taking my guidance from the police department," Schewel stated.

The Durham Police Department said over the last three years, 2,356 shots fired calls were reported on average per year, and many of Durham's shots fired calls are related to aggravated assaults with a firearm.
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