CHICAGO - Local activists gathered at City Hall Monday morning, demanding Chicago officials end the city's contract with ShotSpotter, a technology that alerts police where gunshots have been fired.
The police thought the technology would help them deploy officers to crime scenes faster when shots was detected, but many are questioning whether it is doing more harm than good.
The Chicago Police Department started using ShotSpotter in 2018. It uses microphones to detect the sound of gunfire and then it alerts police.
The city's Inspector General recently reviewed ShotSpotter data over a 16 month period and found the alert rarely lead to investigatory stops by police and rarely produced evidence of gun-related crime.
In addition, the Inspector General says that ShotSpotter has changed how police interact with the public when they are sent into high-intensity situations.
"As a result of the use of this technology, we are sending CPD members into those situations with very little information about context and what they would expect to find when they get there. That can certainly have bad outcomes," said Deborah Witzburg, Deputy Inspector General for Public Safety.
Chicago's contract with ShotSpotter is worth $33 million. The Inspector General's office questioned whether the technology is worth the cost. The Cancel ShotSpotter coalition says it is not.
The coalition said the money that's spent on that contract should be invested in people and they left behind a visual that they say is Mayor Lori Lightfoot's budget, that when broken open is not for the people.
Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th Ward) and Alderman Rossana Rodriguez (33rd Ward) participated in a news conference before the police department budget hearing.
"The Inspector General of Chicago found that only one in 10 ShotSpotter alerts end up in any evidence of shots being fired. This is huge. We cannot continue to spend the precious resources that we have in the city of Chicago on technology that doesn't work, that doesn't keep us safe," said Ald. Rossana Rodriguez (33rd).
Rodriguez said the money that funds ShotSpotter should be invested in Black and brown communities.
The Cancel ShotSpotter coalition made their comments before the Chicago Police Board and the Chicago Police Department are scheduled to give testimony in their budget hearing Monday.
ShotSpotter responded to the criticism with the following statement.
"The Chicago Police Department continually describes ShotSpotter as an important part of their operations. The OIG report did not specifically suggest that ShotSpotter alerts are not indicative of actual gunfire whether or not a police report is filed, or physical evidence is recovered. It is important to note that traditional 911 calls for service from community members during this same time period resulted in a police report or evidence found in only 16 percent of incidents, no better than ShotSpotter alerts at 17 percent, and there is universal agreement about the value of the 911 system. ShotSpotter’s accuracy has been independently audited at 97 percent based on feedback from more than 120 customers."
ShotSpotter is currently used in 120 cities.