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New campaign launches to convince Denver police to stop using ShotSpotter technology

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Posted at 3:08 PM, Apr 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-19 17:13:10-04

DENVER - Campaign Zero recently launched a new campaign called Cancel ShotSpotter to convince cities like Denver to stop using the gunshot detection technology.

Back in January, Denver City Council renewed ShotSpotters contract for another 4 years.

Within a week of that decision, Denver Police Department Division Chief Ron Thomas said ShotSpotter was essential to his department.

“There are sensors that are placed throughout the city and in various arrays and the sensors pick up the percussion of a gunshot. There are individuals that are monitoring for those sounds who alert us,” Thomas said. “We would not otherwise have known about [85% of these shootings]. There was not a corresponding 911 call.”

According to data provided by DPD, in 2021 ShotSpotter alerted the police department 3,802 times resulting in 96 arrests and 122 firearm recoveries.

“For all the alerts that are made, a very few number of arrests are made,” Kim Morse, Denver Taskforce for Reimagining Policing member said.

Morse said the technology isn’t worth the $4.7 million price tag.

“ShotSpotter has been proven to be a sound collection device, but not necessarily effective in reducing violence,” Morse said. “We as a community have asked the city to try and minimize or reduce the interactions between ordinary citizens and law enforcement unless it's necessary. If somebody commits a violent crime or something of that nature, we need an officer involved. But we don't want to just have people being targeted for no reason. And in this tool, this service causes people to have more interactions with the police.”

Morse said several recent studies have shown that ShotSpotter disproportionately impacts communities of color.

Denver City Council Member Candi CdeBaca was the only council member to vote against renewing the ShotSpotters contract.

“I'm a very data-driven person and there have been studies nationally that have proven that this is an ineffective tool for achieving the outcomes of reducing gun violence. We have our own Denver data that suggests that there are a minimal amount of arrests, versus the amount of ShotSpotter alerts that we get, and even fewer convictions that are gun-related within those little tiny numbers of arrests,” CdeBaca said.

CdeBaca said ShotSpotter is not helping work toward the city’s goal of ending gun violence.

“When we have information that proves definitively that it does not help us meet those goals, then we should not be investing scarce resources into those technologies,” CdeBaca said.