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Controversial Shotspotter Contract Approved

Published on Monday, October 4, 2021 | 11:47 pm
 
Courtesy of ShotSpotter Facebook page

[UPDATED] The Pasadena City Council on Monday finally approved a $640,000, three-year contract for the Shotspotter sound recognition system, technology that deploys microphones and sensors in certain neighborhoods to determine the location of gunshots and quickly alerts police.

The item will come back to the City Council or the Public Safety Committee in one year for a report on its impact.

Police say the system, which records loud, impulsive sounds and alerts police in 60 seconds or less about the location of the gunshot, would save lives, deter shootings, and prevent the need to investigate non-gunfire-related incidents, such as fireworks.

“There are instances where the Police Department never receives reports of gunfire and there are instances where the reports of gunfire are reported multiple blocks from the actual location of the gunfire,” according to a city staff report.

On Monday police recovered bullet casings but found no victims following multiple reports of shots fired in the area of Raymond Avenue and Maple Street.

“Gunshots are difficult to determine where they actually originated because of how sound waves travel, which results in officers responding to an inaccurate location. The response delay can sometimes be considerable. If a person was struck by gunfire, time is of the essence and any delay could be a matter of life and death,” the report states.

The city received 10 letters opposing the technology and two in support.

“Some of the comments said it does not address the conditions that lead to crime,” said City Manager Steve Mermell. “I would agree with that. We need to be honest about what this system is. It is a sound detection system that can pick up gunfire. Sometimes when people call the police they are not clear. Response time can be a matter of life and death when people are injured.”

Mermell said the technology was one more tool that could assist police.

The item was scheduled to be heard at last week’s meeting but it was announced by Mayor Victor Gordo that city staff would bring to the council more information on the technology.

“On our street, we have recently had two shootings in the street happen within a two-week time span,’ wrote David Kalbeitzer and Pilar Flynn. “We have previously never had an issue with this before on our street in our area. If Shotspotter can more quickly triangulate when the shots were fired and allow our police department to improve their response times and apprehend suspects, I support this need. We cannot have the safety of our neighborhood threatened. If this technology can be implemented immediately — this will at least help.”

In correspondence to the council, the ACLU claimed the technology is harmful to overpoliced communities.

“We can expect the acquisition of this technology to harm the most vulnerable populations in this city who have been overpoliced, oversurveilled, and undervalued in recent years,” the letter states.

The letter also mentions two studies conducted in Chicago and St. Louis that claim that the technology has not abated crime. However, it has seen some success in other areas.

In April in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., police arrested Shawn Moses after he fired seven rounds and attempted to hide the gun he used in the bushes. According to CBS News, Moses was taken into custody while a second suspect, 44-year-old Bryant Holland, was spotted throwing two duffle bags on the roof of a home, officials said.

The bags contained more than 200 grams of cocaine and nearly 800 grams of cannabis, as well as a handgun, officials said.

Detectives executed a search warrant at the residence and recovered additional drugs and cash from inside the home, officials said.

Just days after being deployed in Detroit, the software led police to a home being used by a gang to assemble, test and sell ghost guns. Seventy-five bullet casings were found in the backyard where the guns were being tested. One of the gang members was wanted in a non-fatal stabbing.

The ACLU claims that reasoning will increase the police footprint in Black and brown communities in Pasadena and lead to further frisks, contacts, detentions, seizures, and arrests.

Pasadena police Lt. Bill Grisafe said that after analyzing 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 being considered.

“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,” said City Manager Steve Mermell. 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.

“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 said.

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

The Pasadena Police Department has responded to more than 300 calls for service from people reporting hearing shots being 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 been seized by police officials.

“I would highly support the city’s interest in exploring and investing in this technology for our neighborhoods to remain safe,” wrote David Kalbeitzer.

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