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Akron councilwoman pushing for technology that alerts police to gunfire

Gunshot detection system too costly for top cop
Posted at 6:20 PM, Jul 19, 2018

An Akron councilwoman fed up with recent shootings and homicides is calling on city leaders to invest in technology that alerts police to the sound of gunfire.

Tara Samples said she has been pushing for ShotSpotter for several months, but she wants the idea to gain more steam in the wake of a rash of shootings that included six homicides in the past two weeks.

"If it's going to protect this community, save lives, we can't put a dollar amount on that. We have to do something," Samples said. "When you have this amount of shootings and homicides in such a short period of time, we have a problem here in the city of Akron."

Akron Police Chief Kenneth Ball said the city listened to a proposal from ShotSpotter, but the price tag was too high.

Ball said it would cost Akron $780,000 to set up sensors over ten square miles in three different parts of the city determined to be "hot spots" for gunfire.

After that, the system would cost $650,000 each year.

"At this point in time, it was determined that was an ask that was just outside of what we were able to tolerate as a city," Ball said. "Right now, with the other priorities that we have in the police department, it's a difficult decision, but it's just not something that we're going to be able to do."

Canton has used ShotSpotter since 2013. Sensors are up in a three-square-mile neighborhood.

Lt. John Gabbard said residents typically call 911 when shots are fired, but believes the gunshot detection system still increases police response time.

"The system definitely helps us locate evidence," Gabbard said. "We find shell casings about four times more often if the system alerted to gunfire because the mapping is pretty accurate."

Chief Ball said his department has higher priorities that include spending money on body-worn cameras, police radios, computers in cars and new cruisers.

"We didn't just give up and say we're not addressing violent crime in the city," Ball said. "But we're starting to look at competitors or alternative technologies that could offer similar, even better options."

The Akron Police Department has a budget of $62 million, including $4 million generated with the passage of Issue 4.

Much of that money pays for salaries and benefits, but Samples still feels some cash should be set aside for ShotSpotter, especially because of the recent spike in shootings.

"My family still lives in this neighborhood. A lot of the individuals who are losing their lives, I know their families. I know them, so it's personal for me."