Chicago City Council pushes to keep ShotSpotter despite mayor's plan to shut it down

At least 14 Chicago City Council members have signed on to an ordinance that would keep the controversial ShotSpotter gunshot detection system operational, despite Mayor Brandon Johnson's agreement to shut the system down by the end of the year.

Aldermen in support of ShotSpotter argue that the system is not necessarily about solving gun-related crimes but about reducing police response times to gunshot incidents, allowing officers to treat victims more quickly.

"My residents see the importance of getting to an emergency call where shots have been fired as quickly as possible, because it could save lives," said 29th Ward Alderman Chris Taliaferro. "No technology is perfect, but it works, and it works to get officers on the scene much quicker."

The proposed ordinance would grant City Council the ultimate authority to overrule the mayor on changes to the ShotSpotter contract. Police Superintendent Larry Snelling has called ShotSpotter a useful tool. However, a 2021 analysis by City Inspector General Deborah Witzburg found that only a small fraction of the 50,000 ShotSpotter alerts led to gun arrests.

"What we found was that of those 50,000 alerts, fewer than one in ten were coded out in a way that indicated any evidence of a gun crime had been collected," Witzburg said.


Chicago aldermen challenge mayor's plan to phase out ShotSpotter

The controversial gunshot detection system known as ShotSpotter is facing renewed scrutiny and debate as Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson's plan to phase it out by the end of the year encounters resistance from some city aldermen.

Alderman Brian Hopkins (2nd Ward) argues that the low arrest rate should not be a reason to discontinue the system.

"The same ridiculous logic could apply to citizens who call 9-1-1 for a gun-related incident," Hopkins said, adding that most of those calls don’t yield arrests either.

Witzburg maintains that the system was originally sold as a crime-fighting aid, but now supporters are shifting their justification without adequate research to confirm that it helps gunshot victims.

"If the conversation we are going to have is getting care to gunshot victims, then we should make sure we are sending the right emergency responders," Witzburg said. "Right now we’re sending police cars and not emergency responders."

A final vote on the contract is set for Wednesday's City Council meeting after mayoral allies postponed the vote from the last meeting. Alderman David Moore says he believes he has enough votes to pass the measure, but Mayor Johnson believes it has no legal standing. That means a potential legal battle between the City Council and the mayor’s office.