‘We’ve got to try something’: Durham Police Chief says ShotSpotter could tackle violent crime

DURHAM, NC (WNCN) – The Durham Police Department has been preparing for months to implement ShotSpotter gunshot detection technology, which will automatically direct officers to scenes where gunfire is being fired.

This comes as the city’s gun violence problem persists, and supporters have said this technology could improve police response times during filming and potentially save lives.

Police preparations to implement the technology began in March after Durham City Council decided to allocate $197,000 to a year-long pilot program that would allow the city to test the technology.

On Thursday morning, Durham Police Chief Patrice Andrews briefed the council on efforts to deploy the technology as early as September.

Andrews said they have not yet determined where in the city the technology will be implemented, but she said it will be an area badly affected by gun violence.

“You look at where the clusters are, where the shootings are happening, where some of the killings are happening,” Andrews said.

In a one-on-one interview, CBS 17 asked Andrews if she thinks ShotSpotter will help address the city’s gun violence problem.

“Possibly ShotSpotter could help with the violent crime,” Andrews said. “I say potentially because I just don’t know what ShotSpotter will do for the city of Durham.”

So far this year 96 people have been shot dead in Durham and 17 of those people have died. Last year was a record year for homicides in Durham and by this time last year 17 people had also died.

“We’ve gotten to a point where we need to try something,” Andrews said. “Violent crime here in Durham and beyond is harrowing and certainly people are losing their lives.”

CBS 17 asked Andrews if ShotSpotter could improve police response times to shootings and help police solve more cases.

“Obviously we’ve had cases in the past where unreported gunshots were heard or we couldn’t figure out where the gunshots were coming from and someone got hurt so success might have saved someone or it might not have been shots fired,” said Andrews.

But ShotSpotter hasn’t been left without resistance, as some city council members fear it could lead to an unnecessary police presence in certain neighborhoods if this technology sends officers where there weren’t any shots.

“I think it’s important that we have some kind of reality-based metric to see if it’s an effective use of public funds,” said Durham City Council member Jillian Johnson.

CBS 17 asked Andrews if she has concerns that ShotSpotter leads to what some call “over-policing” in certain communities.

“I think you always have to keep that in mind,” Andrews said. “My responsibility as police chief is to make sure we don’t get into a situation where we react recklessly and that we don’t engage in some of the practices that are known to genuinely disparage and disproportionately affect members of some of our am most vulnerable communities.”

Andrews said they will look at metrics to see how effective ShotSpotter is in one community and then compare it to another community that doesn’t implement it.

She said they will use this to decide whether to go ahead with the program, and she said community input will also determine whether the program goes ahead.

“To our community, I hear you and understand the concerns about ShotSpotter, and we at the Department of Police promise transparency throughout the process,” Andrews said.

Andrews said the city plans to hold community meetings where officials using ShotSpotter will meet with community members and update them on the implementation of the technology.

https://www.cbs17.com/news/local-news/durham-county-news/we-have-to-try-something-durham-police-chief-says-shotspotter-could-address-violent-crime/ ‘We’ve got to try something’: Durham Police Chief says ShotSpotter could tackle violent crime

DUSTIN JONES

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