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Is it working? Cleveland examines the effectiveness of the ShotSpotter gunfire detection system

Is it working? Cleveland examines the effectiveness of the ShotSpotter gunfire detection system
Posted at 7:35 AM, Mar 14, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-14 09:16:27-04

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland City Council Safety Committee is trying to determine if the city ShotSpotter gunfire detection system, established in 2020, is having a significant impact in reducing gun violence citywide.

Ward 13 Cleveland Councilman Kris Harsh spoke up at the March 6 committee meeting and said he believes there may be better ways to utilize $2.7 million in federal pandemic funds to reduce crime, like hiring more officers to patrol Cleveland streets.

“Nothing we can do will make our city more safe than getting those officer numbers back up, by the admission of the administration we need 180 more officers," Harsh said. “I worry that ShotSpotter is being used to distract people away from that most critical need and look at the tools instead.”

Black Lives Matter President Latonya Goldsby also spoke at the meeting and told the committee she believes ShotSpotter technology, designed to detect gunfire and quickly dispatch police to the scene, is not significantly effective in deterring gun-related crime.

“ShotSpotter does not keep us safe from gun violence, this is just another reactionary tool for law enforcement to play with while increasing police surveillance in Black communities," Goldsby said. "I encourage you to cancel the contract and kick ShotSpotter out of our communities.”

But, recently appointed Cleveland Chief of Police Dorothy Todd and interim Safety Director Wayne Drummond shared their support for the ShotSpotter system with safety committee members. Both pointed to data that indicated the technology saved an estimated 37 lives since 2022 by getting police and crucial medical assistance to gunshot victims more quickly.

Cleveland Police Public Information Officer Sgt. Wilfredo Diaz told News 5 that while the system is still under evaluation, it's clear it's working in the 13 square miles currently under surveillance.

“When we get this information we’re seeing some promising results," Diaz said. “This an investigative tool that we are going to utilize, but we don’t want folks to think that they don’t have to call 9-1-1 anymore."

Diaz said there is no disputing the numbers the police department is collecting.

"It's saving lives, I don’t know that you can put a price tag on someone’s life, whether it’s one life or 37 lives," Diaz said. "We as a division are committed to the safety of our community.”

Still, Harsh said he's looking forward to the results of a study in the coming months, he said will be conducted by Cleveland State University, on the effectiveness of the ShotSpotter system. Harsh is hoping the study will drill down on the data.

“We don’t know if there were 9-1-1 calls involved in those situations, we don’t know if police were near-by to begin with, we don’t know if there were other circumstances that led to those lives being saved," Harsh said. “Cleveland would be better served if it had more license plate readers at major intersections, particularly in Old Brooklyn where we have a problem with Parma Police chasing suspects into the Old Brooklyn neighborhood. We don’t have license plate readers at Brookpark and Broadview, or Brookpark and State, or Brookpark and Pearl.”

News 5 will follow through on this developing story.

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