United States

Chicago To End Use Of Controversial Gunshot Detection Technology ShotSpotter

The AI based technology has faced criticism for its inaccuracies, racial biases, and instances of misuse by law enforcement.

AP
ShotSpotter (File Photo) Photo: AP
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Chicago's Mayor Brandon Johnson's office declared on Tuesday that the city won't be renewing its contract with ShotSpotter, a controversial gunshot detection system, and plans to discontinue its usage later this year.

The technology, which employs an artificial intelligence algorithm and a network of microphones to detect gunfire, has faced criticism for its inaccuracies, racial biases, and instances of misuse by law enforcement. An investigation by the Associated Press uncovered instances where ShotSpotter data was utilized as evidence in criminal cases, including a situation where a Chicago grandfather was charged with murder before the case was dismissed due to insufficient evidence.

The city's contract with SoundThinking, the public safety technology company behind ShotSpotter, is set to expire on Friday. Chicago intends to phase out the use of ShotSpotter technology by late September, with the city having spent $49 million on it since 2018.

In a statement, the city emphasized its commitment to redirecting resources towards more effective crime reduction strategies, consulting with community organizations, violence prevention groups, and law enforcement agencies to ensure a safer Chicago for all residents.

During the transition period, law enforcement and community safety organizations will evaluate alternative tools and programs aimed at enhancing safety and trust within the community, with recommendations to be issued accordingly.

Representatives from SoundThinking did not provide a comment on Tuesday regarding Chicago's decision.

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson
Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson Photo: AP
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Mayor Johnson, who campaigned on a pledge to terminate the use of ShotSpotter, has been at odds with police leaders who laud the system's effectiveness. Police Superintendent Larry Snelling contends that technology plays a crucial role in modern policing and helps address crime, irrespective of residents' racial demographics.

While violent crime rates, including homicides and shootings, have decreased across the nation to pre-pandemic levels, Chicago has witnessed a 30% decline in homicides at the outset of 2024. However, concerns persist regarding the deployment of ShotSpotter in predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods, with some instances of misidentification of sounds leading to unnecessary police interventions.

The Stop ShotSpotter Coalition welcomed the announcement but urged Chicago to cease using the technology sooner, advocating for alternative approaches to violence prevention and community support.

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