City of Cleveland expands gun shotspotter detection technology to all 5 neighborhood police districts to deter crime
The Cleveland Division of Police (CDP) launched a pilot program in 2020 to use ShotSpotter technology on a three-year lease in the fourth district. Since then, the system has reportedly detected more than 10,000 incidents, including over 24,000 rounds fired.
City officials say the technology was instrumental in saving 12 lives, as victims were provided immediate medical aid by both police officers and Emergency Medical Service. ShotSpotter has also helped law enforcement take some 66 firearms off the streets of Cleveland.
“The results of Cleveland’s ShotSpotter pilot show that this technology is effective and is making a difference,” said Mayor Bibb. “ShotSpotter is one of many tools we are incorporating in our fight against gun violence. We are focused on investing in technology and intelligence to reduce gun homicides in our city.”
Chief Drummond added that “the ShotSpotter technology is an incredibly important element that is greatly improving the capabilities of police officers to act swiftly in the event of critical incidents.”
Studies show that more than 80 percent of gunfire incidents are not reported to 9-1-1 in low income urban neighborhoods. ShotSpotter helps law enforcement to identify and locate incidents of outdoor gun violence that may have gone unreported to law enforcement. Alerts are sent within 60 seconds of gunshots, notifying officers precisely when and where gun incidents occur, allowing for a fast, location specific response that can save lives and preserve evidence.
The ShotSpotter gunshot detection technology uses a series of acoustic sensors deployed atop light posts and buildings. Upon recognizing gunfire, the sensors work instantly to triangulate the sound and pinpoint the location and number of shots fired. Expertly trained ShotSpotter acoustic professionals are available 24/7 to review and qualify all gunfire incidents before sending an alert.
There have been, however, concerns, raised by the ACLU about effectiveness, reliability, privacy, and equity. The company, SoundThinking Inc., which was formerly ShotSpotter Inc, has been partnering with cities and police since 1997, and as of 2023 has been utilized by more than 150 cities and law enforcement agencies in the U.S.
By providing a more accurate location to a crime scene, the technology is designed to help responding officers collect additional evidence, like shell casings, they may have otherwise not been able to find. This also helps detectives, who can use the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) to compare evidence from other crime scenes and uncover patterns.
An August 2021 study that looked at the technology’s use in Pittsburgh showed that 96 percent of shots were located within 50 feet or less and an audit released two weeks ago by an independent data science firm in Washington D.C. confirmed that citing an accuracy rate of over 97 percent. In Oakland, 101 gunshot wound victims were located and kept alive due to the technology, and the Albuquerque Police Department reported finding and coordinating EMS response for 179 gunshot wound victims in less than 11 months due to the technology’s alerts.
The ShotSpotter expansion is funded through a $2.76 million American Rescue Plan allocation. The administration also issued an RFP through the Department of Urban Analytics and is finalizing a contract with Cleveland State University’s Criminology Research Center (Crim Center) to independently evaluate ShotSpotter’s effectiveness as well as determine its impact on building community trust.