ShotSpotter contract to end in Durham after city council votes against extending it after a year

Josh Chapin Image
Tuesday, December 19, 2023
ShotSpotter contract to end in Durham after city council votes against extending it after a year
ShotSpotter use is coming to an end in Durham for the time being.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- ShotSpotter use is coming to an end in Durham, at least for the time being.

On Monday night, city council members voted 4-2 to end Shotspotter's contract after a year, despite pleas from some council members in favor of the technology.

Durham Mayor Leo Williams said he told the council to vote their conscience, and he voted to keep ShotSpotter. Mayor Pro Tem Mark Anthony Middleton joined him in the vain effort to extend the contract.

Council members Javiera Caballero, Nate Baker, Carl Rist and Dedreana Freeman voted against extending the ShotSpotter contract.

Critics of the program said money could be better used on programs to keep children occupied and engaged.

Williams said he welcomed everyone's opinion but didn't know why they couldn't invest in programs for children and keep the ShotSpotter technology.

"We do need more food security programs, we do need better health care, we do need after-school programs our kids are too bored. We have to invest in our kids," Williams said. "I think about the folks I know who were saved or the 12-year-old girl who nobody called 9-1-1 for in south side and she was shot in the leg by a stray bullet.

The service will go dark and not notify the police department of gunfire events; it is up to the discretion of ShotSpotter as to where to leave the sensors in place.

"What will happen is the program will go dark, so if someone does shoot in another household? If another 12-year-old girl gets shot, I only pray someone calls 911," Williams said.

According to data from the Durham Police Department, the technology has a 95% effective rate.

It has published 1,383 alerts. On average, it takes officers five minutes to arrive on a scene the moment the technology detects gunshots.

It has led to 21 guns recovered, 22 arrests, and 1,446 shell casings collected at scenes in Durham.

"I know it's easy to fill this room but there are 300,000 people in this city and there are thousands of people in this city that live in housing complexes around this city that do talk to us but don't have list serves and don't come to meetings," Middleton said.

At its Dec. 7 meeting, the Durham Police Department (DPD) asked for a three-month extension of the gunshot-detection technology while the data for the first year was analyzed.

The three-month extension would have cost the city $52,000.

In November, Middleton told ABC11 that the way the Bull City integrated ShotSpotter was being touted as a model.

"How is getting to gunfire in our streets in a timely fashion a threat to our democracy?" Middleton told ABC11. "I mean, if you think that's a bad idea, I really don't know what the refute is. If someone calls 911 and the police come, what's the difference in an electronic sensor telling the police to go to the gunfire?"

Middleton told ABC11 that the response time to ShotSpotter calls is better than the response time to 911 calls.

"Lives have been saved by this technology," Middleton said. "I'm not voting to turn that off."

It's not necessarily the end for ShotSpotter in Durham. The Wilson Center for Science and Justice at Duke Law will continue to study the data from the past 12 months. DPD can then bring the contract back before the council.

Meanwhile, the $52,000 budgeted for this program will just stay put, as it cannot be used for anything else.

It is still not known what will happen with the ShotSpotter technology installed throughout the city. In the meantime, the council will wait for the Wilson Center's review and is expected to revisit the issue in March.