Chicago Audit Finds ShotSpotter Alerts Rarely Lead to Evidence of Gun Crimes
An audit of Chicago’s contract with ShotSpotter, a company that claims its sound sensors can pinpoint the location of gunshots, found that ShotSpotter alerts rarely lead to valuable police leads or evidence of gun crimes.
The Chicago Office of Inspector General released a report today concluding that it did not find evidence that ShotSpotter technology was an effective tool for generating evidence of gun crimes. The report comes on the heels of several media investigations that have raised serious questions about ShotSpotter’s accuracy and the integrity of its data. Meanwhile, Chicago city officials recently chose to extend the company’s three-year, $33 million contract to 2023.
The inspector general’s report examined Chicago Police Department (CPD) data related to ShotSpotter alerts, which are generated when the company identifies a probable gunshot with its network of microphones. In Chicago, the largest of roughly 100 cities where ShotSpotter is deployed, the sensor network covers 117 square miles.
The report found that, of roughly 50,000 such alerts that generated police activity between January 1, 2020 and May 31, 2021, only 4,500 resulted in police finding evidence of a gun-related criminal offense.
The report also finds that ShotSpotter data may change the way CPD members perceive and interact with people in neighborhoods where ShotSpotter alerts are frequent. “At least some officers, at least some of the time, are relying on ShotSpotter results in the aggregate to provide an additional rationale to initiate stop or to conduct a pat down once a stop has been initiated,” the report concluded.
“Our study of ShotSpotter data is not about technological accuracy, it’s about operational value,” Deputy Inspector General for Public Safety Deborah Witzburg said in a press release. “If the Department is to continue to invest in technology which sends CPD members into potentially dangerous situations with little information—and about which there are important commun
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