Does ShotSpotter Cut Crime? No One Knows

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ShotSpotter uses sound to pinpoint where a gun is fired and gives that data to police in real time: It puts a dot on a map. The concept sounds like a superpower, giving police the ability to swoop in and catch violent criminals in the act. Cities report that, while the technology works, it rarely leads police to a smoking gun or a person bleeding in the street, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Experts say the success of ShotSpotter in Cincinnati, which will use it starting next week, will depend on what police do with these dots as they pop up across the city. “It’s not really a magic bullet just having the system. I think that how a police department decides to use those calls is really important,” said Jillian Carr of Purdue University, who has researched ShotSpotter.

Cincinnati had seen 247 shootings this year, about eight a week. The city is on pace to see a decrease in shootings for a second consecutive year. Officials plan to roll out Shotspotter to the public Monday. They visited Denver to see the system in action. Police Chief Eliot Isaac said the system should help officers respond faster, ensure timely medical attention for victims, help with evidence collection and assist in prosecutions. Will the technology help stop gun violence? Carr’s fellow researcher, Jennifer Doleac of the University of Virginia, has studied ShotSpotter for more than three years and concludes there’s just not enough evidence. “There isn’t any evidence on this mostly because the key stakeholders apparently haven’t decided it’s worth their while to produce it,” Doleac said. “And ShotSpotter, as far as they’re concerned, as long as people keep signing contracts, it’s not in their best interest to produce any evidence.”

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