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City Council Committee Pushes Forward with Proposal to Deploy Gunshot Detecting Sensors in Pasadena

Published on Friday, September 24, 2021 | 6:03 am

A Pasadena City Council committee pushed forward on Thursday with a measure that would allow city police to use a gunfire detection system for three years.

The Shotspotter system deploys microphones and detecting sensors in city neighborhoods to determine the location of gunshots and alerts police quickly. Its impact is being questioned by some civil rights groups across the United States.

During Public Safety Committee meeting discussions on the proposed purchase of a three-year subscription with ShotSpotter Inc., members of the committee agreed to elevate the matter before the full City Council.

The proposal for the purchase of the $640,000 subscription with ShotSpotter system is included in City Council’s agenda for Monday, September 27.

The Pasadena Police Department claims that the system, which basically records loud, impulsive sound and alerts police in 60 seconds or less about the location of the gunshot, would save lives, deter shootings and would prevent the need to investigate non-gunfire related incidents (such as fireworks).

During the meeting, Councilmember John Kennedy asked the staff to provide more data regarding the artificial intelligence-powered system as he raised reports and concerns about its efficacy and the possibility that it might result in over-policing in areas where gunfire detectors will be deployed, which he noted are areas of Northwest Pasadena.

Kennedy suggested that the funds for the purchase of the subscription be used instead for efforts to foster stronger relationships between the community and the police.

“It would be unwise for the council or this body to move forward unless it found out what have been the results from some of the other cities that have deployed this technology.”

“I believe we have a fine police department, I just don’t want us to use $700,000 for this technology if we can use it for some other community-building effort that puts our officers in the field interacting with our [community] to improve police-community relations,” Kennedy said.

Lt. Bill Grisafe said after analyzing Pasadena police data, ShotSpotter proposed to cover about a three-square mile area of Pasadena that is most impacted by gun-related violence. There was no mention of the specific area covered.

“In my view, that is not over-policing, it is a technology tool that allows police to respond and hopefully it also aids in their investigation,” City Manager Steve Mermell said. He stressed his belief there is a need for the system amid the uptick in gun-related incidents in the city over the past two years.

Mermell continued: “It would be located in a portion of our city where we have the most incidents of gun violence and the people that live in those areas of our community should not have to put up with gun violence, and so I feel that if this tool can help, it’s worth a try.”

Mermell assured that the city can terminate its contract with ShotSpotter Inc. early if the system comes up short of what the city expects.

Mayor Victor Gordo expressed his support for the proposal. “I am prepared to move the item forward because if we have technology that can deter, avoid or help catch perpetrators then we have to employ it.”

Councilmember Tyron Hampton also expressed his interest to move the discussion forward.

“By any means we need to do whatever we can to protect the lives and quality of lives of our residents that live in residential neighborhoods,” Hampton said.

The Pasadena Police Department has responded to more than 300 calls for service reporting of shots fired and an additional 400 incidents of gun-related crimes over the past two years.

During the same period, nearly 40 members of the Pasadena community have been either killed or injured as a result of gun violence. Close to 700 firearms have also been seized by police officials.

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