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Public Safety Committee Hears Report on Use of ShotSpotter Gunshot Detection System

Published on Friday, June 23, 2023 | 5:51 am

The Pasadena Police Department on Wednesday reported a significant decrease in the number of shootings and victims of gun violence since the city deployed ShotSpotter, a gunfire detection system, in February 2022.

Commander William Grisafe presented department statistics to the City Council’s Public Safety Committee showing that in 2021, the Department investigated 73 shooting incidents in which 23 people were struck by gunfire. By contrast, in 2022, the first year ShotSpotter was activated, police conducted 49 shooting investigations in which 14 people were shot and injured or killed.

This year from January 1 to May 31, 2023, Pasadena police investigated a total of 20 shooting incidents, with five gunshot victims.

Grisafe did not attribute the decline only to ShotSpotter.

“ShotSpotter helped along with some of the other things that are put in place,” said Grisafe. “If I were to say that ShotSpotter is responsible for the decrease, no. It is coordination of a lot of different things.”

ShotSpotter, an acoustic gunshot detection service from SoundThinking, Inc., detects, locates, and alerts police to gunfire, including incidents not reported by the public. 

The system went live in Pasadena on February 9, 2022, following a rise in violent crimes driven by gun violence.

ShotSpotter’s automatic alerts to field officers have regularly dramatically reduced police response times to shootings.

In the second incident during its first week on the job, officers alerted by Pasadena’s ShotSpotter system arrived at the scene of a shooting within 60 seconds, where they found and aided an injured victim.

ShotSpotter has also resulted in the arrest of two people, Grisafe reported.

Police data presented to the Committee showed that in 2022, Pasadena police received 109 gunshot or probable gunshot alerts. Out of the total number, 49 were ultimately determined to be verified shootings. 

Pasadena police received 80 gunshot or probable gunshot alerts during the first quarter of 2023. Grisafe said it is difficult to say how many of the 80 alerts were actual gunshots.

“Is ShotSpotter perfect? No. Its technology has some issues, it only guarantees 90 percent,” Grisaffe said. “It’s not a perfect system but it does help us in a lot of ways.”

The city has spent $430,000 for the use of ShotSpotter — $220,000 for the first year, and $210,000 for the current fiscal year. 

During the meeting, Community Police Oversight Commissioner Florence Annang questioned the system’s effectiveness in preventing crimes.

“Is this money well spent?” Annang asked. “Some may say 283 and a half hours could be given back to good old police work. But some say technology is the future, but at what cost to the community when it cannot produce success in high levels of arrest and prosecution?”

In response, Councilmember Steve Madison addressed Annang as well as the members of the public and urged them to realize there are other important benefits from ShotSpotter besides arrests.

“Think about two other potential metrics that are really important here. One is deterrence, the idea that as it becomes known that we have ShotSpotter which will enable a quicker police response, is that the shooting will decrease,” Madison said. “And the other is the safety of our community.” 

Mayor Victor Gordo said the item is going to the City Council in a future meeting before it goes to Community Police Oversight Commission for further review.

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