Amid criticism and $ 1.1million prize, Pittsburgh officials believe ShotSpotter saves lives – CBS Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The City of Pittsburgh thinks gunshot detection technology called ShotSpotter saves lives, but is it worth the cost?

“My initial thought when ShotSpotter first arrived in the area was that it could be an asset to community gun issues,” said George Spencer, local president of MAD Dads.

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The city pays $ 1,183,289 per year for ShotSpotter’s gunshot detection system. Pittsburgh is one of at least 119 cities nationwide that pay for this technology to identify triggers.

“We have had an increase in shots fired in the city of Pittsburgh. Whether there is a victim or not, the shots have increased dramatically, ”said Wendell Hissrich, director of public safety for Pittsburgh.

(Photo credit: KDKA)

In the space of two years, the ShotSpotter alerts alone led to 13 gunshot victims and paramedics. Hissrich said that in many cases this is really the difference between life and death.

“You look at other communities and they find people dead long after someone shoots 911. And here, with the ability to focus on one location, these officers can come in and look at a specific location, ”Hissrich said.

For those 13 shootings, the city said no one called 911. Rather, it was ShotSpotter who alerted officers both by police radio and on their phones.

Pittsburgh Public Safety Technology Director Daniel Shak said: “When acoustic sensors hear a loud bang, bang or sound that looks like a gunshot, they go through a sophisticated machine algorithm, dealing with whether it is a shot. “

It detects number of shots, location and even allows first responders to hear the sound of the shot.

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“21st century policing is technology, it’s ShotSpotter, it’s cameras, it’s apps like this that let you put them together to create prosecutable crimes,” Shak said.

In 2019, police received five alerts that resulted in them shooting victims. In 2020, that number has increased from five to eight. Of all ShotSpotter notifications in 2020, according to the city, a total of 31% did not have an accompanying 911 call.

“Nowadays, officers are equipped with tourniquets. They are equipped with rapid clots. They are equipped with a quick closure. So they can access some of these scenes, provide help and save a life when there has never been a call to 911, ”Shak said.

However, there are false alarms.

“We’ve had a few incidents where we’ve had an individual putting on a roof and using a nail gun, and that’s of course similar to gunfire. We have had a few car flashbacks. But that’s better than not responding and having someone die. So we will take the false alarms, ”Hissrich said.

Another criticism concerns the strategic locations of the sensors. Some believe cities use them to target neighborhoods made up mostly of minorities.

“The location of the ShotSpotter was not based on communities or neighborhoods. It was all data driven. We have extracted the data, we have extracted the shots fired from the incidents, we have extracted the non-fatal shots, we have extracted the homicides and that’s where the technology has been deployed, ”Shak said.

ShotSpotter technology initially only covered three square miles in the city. But now it has expanded to 18 square miles across Pittsburgh.

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The city will invest nearly an additional $ 5 million in this technology before the contract expires in 2025. It will then be up to the manager to decide whether the city gets a decent enough return on its investment to renew it and keep the ShotSpotter. system in place.

Eleanor C. William