Cleveland expands ShotSpotter system, despite criticism of gunfire detection technology

Published: May. 23, 2023 at 11:16 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Mayor Justin Bibb announced Tuesday that the city will expand its ShotSpotter program to include all five Cleveland police districts, after previously being deployed in the fourth district exclusively.

“The results of Cleveland’s ShotSpotter pilot show that this technology is effective and is making a difference,” Bibb said in a news release. “ShotSpotter is one of many tools we are incorporating in our fight against gun violence. We are focused on investing in technology and intelligence to reduce gun homicides in our city.”

According to the release, studies have shown more than 80 percent of gunfire incidents are not reported by the public.

The technology automatically detects gunfire and alerts police.

In 2021, the American Civil Liberties Union published an article on its website expressing concern over the use of ShotSpotter nationwide, citing privacy safety concerns.

“ShotSpotter false alarms send police on numerous trips into communities for no reason and on high alert expecting to potentially confront a dangerous situation. Given the already tragic number of shootings of Black people by police, that is a recipe for trouble,” wrote Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst for the ACLU.

Black Lives Matter Cleveland launched an online petition asking Mayor Bibb to end the contract with the company.

“ShotSpotter technology regularly sends police, falsely expecting to find gunshots, into the Black, brown, and poor communities where microphones are embedded,” the group said. “ShotSpotter makes everyone in our communities less safe by increasing the number of heightened and harmful interactions with police.”

According to the City of Cleveland’s news release, studies have shown the system accurately detects gunshots at a rate of about 97 percent.