Fayetteville leaders vote to allocate money for ShotSpotter despite dissent

ByMonique John via WTVD logo
Wednesday, September 7, 2022
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ShotSpotter, a gun detection technology sparking heated debate, is coming to Fayetteville. Tuesday, City council voted to allocate almost $200,000 a year to install ShotSpotter but some officials have pushed back against the decision.

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- ShotSpotter, a gun detection technology sparking heated debate, is coming to Fayetteville.

The City Council voted to allocate almost $200,000 a year to install ShotSpotter but some officials have pushed back against the decision.

Opponents, including Council Member Mario Benavente, say the technology is unreliable. Benavente said ShotSpotter only has an 11% accuracy rate and could lead the city to waste resources.

"A lot of the marketing that goes around it helps sell this to cities around the country as a way to manufacture consent for increased policing," Benavente said. "But there has not been actual independent tests on this to say whether or not, you know, this can do all the things that it claims it is able to do."

However, a representative for ShotSpotter refutes this, saying technology has a 97% accuracy rate for real-time detections across police departments using the system. ShotSpotter also says it has been independently verified by a company called Edgeworth Analytics. A statement from ShotSpotter reads:

"Studies show that more than 80% of gunfire incidents go unreported to 911. ShotSpotter is a proven tool that saves lives and helps law enforcement reduce violent crime in cities nationwide with a fast, precise police response to gunfire."

Opponents also express concern that the technology could embolden police officers to search people unlawfully. Benavente argued the money would be better spent providing resources like more housing and jobs with better wages. To him, that would help marginalized people and discourage them from getting into crime.

"If an area is dealing with an increase in gun violence, we can spend $200,000 in ways that prevent those things from occurring rather than getting more folks caught up in the criminal justice system," he said.

However, supporters, including Mayor Mitch Colvin, say the technology has been successful in other cities, and that it is ultimately designed to keep residents safe.

"This is meant to be an alignment of partnership with the community, not an adversarial, you know, project," Colvin said.

The mayor went on to say the city isn't stopping at investing in technology. It's also committed to implementing social reforms to get to the root of gun violence.

"We certainly plan to do those things to help mitigate violence and people who are on that path. But we also owe it to our citizens to make sure that our officers and our team has everything possible in its toolbox to be able to keep the community safe."

The mayor also pointed out that the city is still demanding that officers treat all residents equally while responding to incidents involving guns, and won't stand for unlawful searches or racial profiling.

"We also still stand by the good report and the principles that we align our police department to participate in which is to not utilize any profiling or racial discrepancies," Colvin said.

City officials said Fayetteville Police are reviewing options for where to install the ShotSpotter system in the city.

This report was updated on Wednesday, Sept. 7 at 12:22 p.m. to include comments from ShotSpotter.