Chicago Embracing Controversial ShotSpotter

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The Chicago Police Department will conduct a high-tech pilot program in the Englewood and Harrison districts, which have some of the city’s highest crime rates in the city. The city will expand a network of gunshot sensors and cameras. Smartphone apps will give beat cops real-time, on-the-go access to the data, enabling them to respond to crimes faster, while control centers will crunch the data to predict incidents. The city will also hire more police and fit cops with body cameras. Critics say the ShotSpotter technology is ineffective and even counterproductive, while comparison with cities like New York suggests the need for a deeper approach that addresses the roots of violent crime, the Christian Science Monitor reports.

Expanding ShotSpotter is intended to help police officers respond quickly to gunfire. Chicago police have found that the sensors pick up gun activity an average of five minutes before residents call it in. This may help them identify suspects, which has proved challenging: in 2016, the city recorded 762 murders, but police were able to identify suspects in only 29 percent of cases. However, the Center for Investigative Reporting found that most assailants leave almost immediately after firing a gun. In San Francisco, there were more than 3,000 ShotSpotter alerts over two and a half years. Of these, just two resulted in arrests – and only one was gun-related. Police in Oakland, Ca., describe the technology as not only ineffective, but also counterproductive. The use of ShotSpotter, they said, means people are less likely to call in shootings, weakening community-police relations and eliminating a valuable source of information about the events surrounding the shooting.


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