Miami Politicians Push ShotSpotter Even Though Some Local Cops Say It Doesn't Work

Categories: Crime

shotspotter_diagram.jpg
shotspotter.com
A diagram of ShotSpotter's technology, soon to be in use in Overtown, Liberty City, and Little Haiti
Nothing is scarier than a city commission that's all smiles. Politicians are preternaturally disposed to disagreement, so voters should be skeptical whenever commissioners suddenly go full kumbaya.

On the scale of suspicious love-fests, this past April 10 was a doozy. City of Miami commissioners lined up to laud a so-called gunshot detection system named ShotSpotter. Using a series of sonic sensors attached to telephone poles, ShotSpotter allows the Miami Police Department "to directly know when a gunshot has been fired within milliseconds, rather than having to wait for a police call, which could take minutes," Commissioner Francis Suarez said. Because of gun violence in Miami, ShotSpotter is a much-needed "effort to kind of think outside of the box," Suarez said. His fellow commissioners were sold.

"We cannot just sit around and do nothing," Keon Hardemon said.

Suarez proposed legislation to set up ShotSpotter in Little Haiti, Liberty City, and Overtown, and the commission quickly approved $275,000 to cover the California-based company's installation costs and the first year's subscription, as well as $185,000 per year going forward. Nearly a third of the money will come from the Overtown's community redevelopment agency, chaired by Hardemon.

There's only one small problem with the new toy that commissioners just gave the Miami Police Department. Compared to billion-dollar boondoggles, ShotSpotter might be cheap, but it also might not work.

At least that's what both Broward and Miami-Dade police departments found when they tried out the gunshot detection system. The Broward Sheriff's Office spent a half-million dollars (mostly FBI funds) on ShotSpotter, but it led to only four arrests in a year.

"Based on some benefit analysis, we decided it just wasn't cost-effective," said BSO spokesman Jim Leljedal at the time, adding that his agency was wasting too much manpower sending deputies out to false alarms.

Miami-Dade's verdict was even more damning. After yielding to then-commissioner Joe Martinez's calls for ShotSpotter, MDPD told New Times that it ditched the system last November.

"There were instances in which the ShotSpotter did not identify gunfire when it should have," according to a statement. Just as bad, ShotSpotter frequently had officers searching for phantom shooters. "During 2012, the ShotSpotter system identified more than 1,000 gunfire incidents within the boundaries of Northside District; however, there were less than 50 confirmed shootings within the area. It is unknown how many of the remaining incidents of gunfire were false positives or unreported incidents in which no one was struck."

Though MDPD says the system was "beneficial" in pinning down hot spots for shootings, "its success in directly leading to the apprehension of individuals involved in shooting incidents [was] minimal."

In emails to New Times, ShotSpotter defended its system, saying that it had been improved since BSO dropped its subscription. "They now know how they could be successful in using the ShotSpotter solution," said company spokeswoman Liz Einbinder.

Hardemon also has high hopes for the high-tech gadgetry.

"The cost of the ShotSpotter program is relatively immaterial to the deterrence of murder and other violent crimes in District 5," he says. "The program will be used in conjunction with other resources to help solve crimes that tend to go unsolved within our community."

The more traditional crime-solving resource, however, never asked for the newfangled gunshot detection system. Miami Police say that they didn't request ShotSpotter. And commission meeting minutes show the department expressed doubts.

"Basically, we're getting ShotSpotter as a result of the city making that purchase," says Major Delrish Moss. "At this point, it's kind of something that we'll have to evaluate its viability. Yes, we are aware of the complaints that some cities have had. Obviously those conversations were had with ShotSpotter.

"If it's a tool that works for us, we'll continue it," he said. "And if it's not, then... we'll address that down the road."

Down the road, when the city will be down hundreds of thousands -- perhaps millions -- of dollars. For that amount of money, Overtown could have bought itself something truly useful -- actual cops.

Send your tips to the author, or follow him on Twitter.

Follow Miami New Times on Facebook and Twitter @MiamiNewTimes.

My Voice Nation Help
10 comments
Sayad Khan
Sayad Khan

Looks like someone's friend started a new company and is about to make a shit ton of taxpayer money for a small percentage.

Stewart Rondon
Stewart Rondon

And also what's stopping them from shorting at the mics?

Stewart Rondon
Stewart Rondon

What's to stop guys from getting smart, and using very loud speakers to simulate gun shots to distract the police to bogus false positives?

Geoff Paugam
Geoff Paugam

I've seen it work on Crime360 and on some episodes of the First 48 in the cities that have it.

Larry Shane
Larry Shane

Shot spotter is not a cash generator !?! ;)

Alex Hernandez
Alex Hernandez

Can't wait to see what happens on New Years Eve.

DrumRollPlease
DrumRollPlease

They got ripped off.MP cameras in highest crime area.  Increase street lighting using long life LEDs.  They should read the case study from Aviglon about Selma, criminal reports has dropped 75 percent.  

DRAKEMALLARD.0
DRAKEMALLARD.0 topcommenter

That's right. You see, according to *Cacteau's* plan. *I'm* the enemy. Because I like to think, I like to read. I'm into freedom of speech, freedom of choice. I'm the kind if guy who would sit in the greasy spoon and think "Gee, should I have the T-bone steak or the big rack of Barbecued spare ribs with the side order of gravy fries?" I *want* high cholesterol. I want to eat bacon, butter and buckets of cheese alright? I want to smoke a Cuban cigar the size of Cincinatti in a non-smoking section. I wanna run around naked with green jell-o all over my body reading a Playboy magazine. Why? Because maybe I feel the need to okay pal? I've *seen* the future, you know what it is. It's made by a 47 year-old virgin in gray pajamas soaking in a bubble bath, drinking a broccoli milkshake and thinking "I'm an Oscar-Meyer Wiener". You wanna live on top, you gotta live Cacteau's way. What he wants, when he wants, how he wants. Your other option: come down here, maybe starve to death.

Now Trending

Miami Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

General

Loading...