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Public Safety Committee to Consider Request for Purchase of Three-Year Subscription with Gunfire Detection Firm ShotSpotter

Published on Monday, September 20, 2021 | 5:00 am
Phot Courtesy ShotSpotter website

The Public Safety Committee will consider next week the recommendation for the city to purchase a three-year subscription with the gunfire detection firm ShotSpotter Inc. in an amount not exceeding $640,000, to enhance Pasadena Police Department’s response and investigation of gun-related crimes. 

ShotSpotter firm provides a gunfire detection, analysis and alert system that uses microphones and detecting sensors to determine the optimal location of gunshots. 

The request of the Pasadena Police Department for the city to enter into a purchase order contract with the firm comes as questions about the accuracy and reliability of the artificial intelligence-powered system emerge in other cities where it is being used.  

In Chicago, 65-year-old Michael Williams landed in jail after the district attorney there filed murder charges against him reportedly because a ShotSpotter alert of gunfire placed Williams in the immediate vicinity of a fatal shooting.

Williams sat behind bars for nearly a year before a judge dismissed his case in August for insufficiency of evidence. 

Once the Public Safety Committee approves the proposed procurement in its meeting on Sept. 23, the matter will be elevated to the City Council for its consideration in a meeting scheduled on Sept. 27. 

The staff is recommending that the City Council authorize the purchase of a subscription to ShotSpotter’s system which includes equipment, service initiation, onboarding and annual subscription fees. 

The staff is also recommending that the procurement be exempted from public bidding as there is no other vendor providing the service aside from ShotSpotter Inc. 

According to the staff report, 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 result of gun violence. Close to 700 firearms have also been seized by police officials. 

“[It is difficult to determine where gunshots actually originated] because of how sound waves travel, which results in officers responding in an inaccurate location,” the staff report states.

“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.” 

Through the use of the ShotSpotter system, once a loud, impulsive sound is detected, it will be recorded and will be sent to ShotSpotter’s Incident Review Center where it will undergo two phases of review to determine if it is a legitimate gunfire or it was from another source. 

Once confirmed, the Pasadena Police Department will be notified of the gunfire through a digital application on their smartphone. 

The entire process occurs within 60 seconds or less.

Besides its potential life-saving benefits, staff claimed ShotSpotter would deter shootings and would prevent the need to investigate non-gunfire related incidents allowing officers to remain available in the field.

The information provided by the ShotSpotter system can also assist detectives in solving criminal activity, according to the staff report.

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