The Crusader Newspaper Group

Defiant Ald. Moore vows to retain ShotSpotter despite mayor’s pushback

A defiant Alderman David Moore (17th) continues to gather support for a full City Council showdown vote on his substitute ShotSpotter ordinance. If passed, the ordinance will allow the controversial ShotSpotter gun detector system to continue on a ward-by-ward basis. A SoundThinking spokesperson vowed to help the city remain safe.

Ald. David Moore

Moore introduced the ordinance at an April 1 special City Council meeting.

If approved, the unified aldermanic pushback would be a huge challenge to the mayor’s power and his control over the 50 aldermen, rather than Mayor Brandon Johnson’s unilateral cancellation of the $49 million gunshot detection contract he had promised to end during his campaign.

Mayor Johnson received criticism when he cancelled the ShotSpotter contract last February, calling it ineffective, and he’s feeling greater aldermanic heat today. Moore disagreed with the cancellation, telling the Chicago Crusader ShotSpotter is a tool that the Superintendent of Police says he needs.

The mayor is ending the initial $49 million contract on November 22. The cost of the extended contract is $8.6 million, according to the spokesperson, but many aldermen remain opposed to eliminating the ShotSpotter system.

“We should give him every tool necessary to solve, reduce and eliminate elements of crime.”

“This system notifies the police when gunshots are heard, resulting in a quicker police presence than waiting on 911 calls from the community,” said Moore.

ShotSpotter is used by more than 160 cities domestically and internationally. It is an acoustic gunshot detection and location system that alerts police and first responders of gunfire in a city’s coverage area within 60 seconds.

The technology enables a fast, precise response, ultimately helping to save lives and collect critical evidence for investigations, according to the spokesperson.

When asked if the purpose of ShotStopper is to reduce crime, the spokesperson stated, “Gunshot detection technology cannot singularly prevent gun violence or reduce crime. No single technology, tool, or modality can prevent gun violence alone, not license plate readers, 911 or anything else. Crime – and gun violence specifically – is an enormously complex and long-tenured problem and to redact it to singular solutions is disingenuous at best.

“What gunshot detection technology can and is proven to do is to remedy the chronic under-reporting of criminal gunfire. An important fact that most people do not know is that 60-90 percent of gunfire goes unreported via the traditional 911 system,” the spokesperson clarified.

“The simple but powerful awareness of knowing almost immediately when and where gunfire occurs allows for at least three important public safety benefits,” the spokesperson said, including saving lives. He said hundreds of victims were located who had no corresponding 911 calls.

Other benefits to the ShotSpotter technology included increasing the collection of ballistics evidence and improving police investigations “along with data and response to inform intervention strategies and build community trust.

“We take pride in the accuracy of our technology and are always working to exceed the expectations of our customers. Over the past four years, ShotSpotter has had a 97 percent accuracy rate across all customers. This was independently verified by data analytics firm Edgeworth Analytics,” a SoundThinking spokesperson stated.

When asked about the value of ShotSpotter, the spokesperson stated, “SoundThinking takes ensuring that ShotSpotter technology provides safe and equitable response efforts to all communities extremely seriously.

“Police cannot solely rely on 911 calls when criminal gunshots are fired, because in neighborhoods plagued by gun violence, only about 20 percent of incidents receive a 911 call,” the spokesperson said, citing research from the Brookings Institute.

“This creates a situation where law enforcement and first responders are unable to respond to about 80 percent of gun violence.” The spokesperson said this is key because “for shooting victims, every minute matters.

“It is estimated that in as little as 3-5 minutes after a gunshot wound, the survival rate for the victim can drop dramatically without assistance. This enables police to locate potential victims, get them the life-saving medical attention they need, and collect critical evidence.”

Citing independent research by the Center for Crime Science and Violence Prevention in the Winston-Salem market, the spokesperson said it showed that police response times to ShotSpotter alerts were almost five minutes faster compared to those called in by residents.

“The study also showed that ShotSpotter calls received more investigative time, leading to improved evidence recovery,” according to the spokesperson.

The same study showed that the deployment of ShotSpotter resulted in a 24-percent decrease in aggravated assaults in the market. Comparable markets in the area showed an increase in aggravated assaults during the same time period, with aggravated assaults down 38 percent in Winston Salem vs. the other markets.

“SoundThinking stands ready to do whatever we can to assist the City of Chicago, whether it’s ward-by-ward or district-by-district. We also understand the importance and look forward to assisting CPD on producing more data and transparency,” the spokesperson told the Chicago Crusader.

With the summer months fast approaching and aldermen up in arms over his canceling the contract, Mayor Johnson has had to rescind his threat to decommission the contract on September 22, after a major pushback from the aldermen.

“This is about policy, not politics,” Moore told the Chicago Crusader after attending the special City Council meeting on this issue.

Less than two weeks after the mayor lost his “Bring Chicago Home” referendum, Moore said, “I believe we have the 26 votes to approve this ward-by-ward usage of the ShotSpotter gunshot detection system.”

Moore wants the mayor to work with the aldermen and not make unilateral decisions about issues in their wards.

“This is more about policy than people’s ideology for them to determine if they do or don’t want ShotSpotter. Before we take this tool away, we have to make sure that the tool the mayor wants to use is the tool that will work, especially since the Superintendent of Police is saying it’s a tool that we need,” Moore stated.

He is calling for a study to be conducted and is asking the mayor to keep the ShotSpotter system, “especially in areas where there are aldermen who want to keep it.” Moore admits the ShotSpotter “isn’t 100-percent accurate” and that it does pick up false shootings. He said ShotSpotter is needed to get the police to the scene of the shooting quickly and to prevent gang retaliation.

Aldermen Walter Burnett (27th), Anthony Beale (9th), Police and Fire Committee Chairman Alderman Chris Taliaferro (29th) and others sided with Moore, saying the aldermen need every tool available to help save lives.

When contacted and asked if she supported Moore’s ordinance, Alderman Jeanette Taylor, (20th) said, “I want us to have a conversation about what is best for the community.” Asked if she has brought this issue before her constituents, Taylor said she held a public safety meeting that included Chicago Police Department Superintendent Larry Snelling, who supports the ShotSpotter gun detection system.

She said many residents feel the police are not answering the 911 calls “because of new rules and regulations.” She quoted Snelling when he said, “Public safety is all of our responsibilities and that we all need to work together. We have to do something we haven’t done in decades and that is to work together.”

When asked what the next step is, Taylor said there is talk of a similar gun detection system. “To me, ShotSpotter did a half job. I’m right off the Expressway so every time there was a blowout by a truck, the police would show up at my office. They could have saved a life somewhere else.

“I want us to have a community conversation that includes the police, along with elected officials to say what safety looks like and what is the best use. If not ShotSpotter, then what? How do we give the support the police say they need?”

Moore’s substitute ordinance makes it clear he is following the wishes of his constituents and not Johnson’s “unilateral decision to end the SoundThinking/ShotSpotter without consulting the aldermen who are using this system.”

Burnett supports Moore’s ordinance. “I want ShotSpotter in my ward. I think it’s helpful to the police and to public safety people. If someone gets shot in the neighborhood, the ShotSpotter will detect it and then the police and the ambulance will come. Normally, when that happens, people don’t say anything. They won’t call 911. ShotSpotter saves lives.

“I also agree with Alderman Moore that it should be ward-by-ward. Every community is different. I’m getting people shot every day in my ward. Some wards don’t get people shot for months.”

Burnett has parts of Old Town in his ward and the Fulton Market. He said shootings have increased 100 percent in his ward. “We need every tool in the toolbox to keep people safe.” The alderman said the ordinance could go before the full City Council or to the Rules Committee he says is best known as the “legislative cemetery.” Burnett said it is the mayor’s call.

But the aldermanic pushback continues with Moore accusing the mayor of putting the lives of citizens at risk. “It is the responsibility of the aldermen to secure as many resources as possible to uplift and protect their community.”

In pushing to cancel the contract, Moore said both the mayor and his staff “have put at risk the communities that utilize SoundThinking/ShotSpotter, almost all Black and brown communities.”

For those aldermen who don’t want the system, which uses acoustic sensors to detect and locate gunshots in real time, notifying police of a shooting, Moore said they should have the right to choose or reject but not the mayor making decisions for them.

Alderman Emma Mitts (37th) also sided with Moore, telling the Chicago Crusader, “The ShotSpotter is a tool that is needed because people are not calling the police. A lot of the calls to 911 are not coming from the community because of the code of silence.”

Mitts said she knows of many people who were taken to the hospital after being shot because of the ShotSpotter. “It serves the purpose of technology, and if it is helping, we need that and more to keep people safe.”

Mayor Johnson released a statement to the media saying, “Public safety is a citywide issue within the responsibility of the Police Department, with oversight by the Office of the Mayor, and cannot be effectively managed on a ward-by-ward basis in a way that undercuts that authority.”

+ posts

Recent News

Scroll to Top