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Detroit City Council approves $7 million ShotSpotter expansion

user Ben Re

After months of debate, Detroit City Council has approved a contract to expand the controversial gunshot detection technology throughout the city.

The $7 million dollar contractwill expand the ShotSpotter technology to at least 10 more areas in the city.

The council voted 5-4 to expand the system. Council members Gabriela Santiago-Romero, Mary Waters, Angela Whitfield-Calloway and President Mary Sheffield voted against funding ShotSpotter.

The four-year contract will keep technology in the city through 2026. Instead of using COVID relief money as originally proposed by the Detroit Police Department, it’ll be funded by the department's own budget.

Detroit Police Chief James White says the department will provide monthly reports about ShotSpotter to the Board of Police Commissioners.

"Opportunities to reduce crime in this city, I think we need to take the chance on doing so. I’m confident that we’ll be able to replicate what we’ve had in nine and what we’ve had in eight, across this city," he said.

Last month, City Council approved a $1.5 million dollar contract to renew the city’s current ShotSpotter system in two neighborhoods.

Proposed Shotspotter coverage area
City of Detroit
Proposed Shotspotter coverage area

"If council is going to vote yes on ShotSpotter then we should be voting yes on community based intervention programs and fully funding them," said Councilmember Gabriela Santiago Romero. "We should vote yes on truly affordable housing. We should vote yes on mental health resources. I know we need a responsive police and the resources our communities deserve."

Councilmember Waters said in a statement, "Detroit cannot afford to deploy this dangerous and unproven technology."

Hundreds of people have showed up to City Council over the past few weeks to comment on ShotSpotter.

Prior to the vote today, a coalition of organizations including the ACLU of Michigan and Detroit Justice Center held a press conference urging the council to vote no on the contract.

Activists and residents were wary of the potential for increased police surveillance and said that ShotSpotter has not provided enough data to prove that the technology is effective at reducing crime.

In a statement to Michigan Radio, ShotSpotter Senior Vice President Sam Klepper said the system correctly detects gunfire incidents with 97% accuracy, "enabling a fast, precise police response." Klepper said the company has 125 cities using its technology, with a 98% renewal rate.

Mayor Mike Duggan and Detroit Police Chief James White have defended the expanded system in press conferences and Town Halls.

Briana Rice is Michigan Public's criminal justice reporter. She's focused on what Detroiters need to feel safe and whether they're getting it.
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