Could ShotSpotter reduce violent crime in Durham? Police departments using it weigh in

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – The problem with gun violence continues in Durham. Three women were shot in two different incidents on Sunday.

The first shooting happened around 1:15 am on Durham-Chapel Hill Boulevard near Tower Boulevard where two women were shot in a vehicle. Police said on Monday those two women are expected to be OK.

There were two people in another vehicle at the scene that was also hit by gunfire. The two young women in that vehicle said they were headed home from picking up food when they were caught in the crossfire. Thankfully, they were not hurt in the shooting.

The second shooting happened around 2:45 p.m. on Southerland Street. Police said a woman was shot in the driveway. Adrian Alston told CBS 17 at the scene that her grandmother, 72-year-old Louvenia Alston, was shot in the leg by someone drove up and started firing.

Police said Louvenia Alston was not the intended target in the shooting. Thankfully, she is also expected to be OK.

“Someone needs to do something about this because it’s starting to get out of control. It’s been out of control,” Adrian Alston said.

At least 253 people have been shot this year in Durham, and 24 of those individuals have died. Data show there is a 40-percent increase in shootings this year in the Bull City compared to last year.

The increase has Durham city leaders considering different ways they can curb gun violence in the city.

One thing the city council is currently considering is implementing a free six-month trial of ShotSpotter Technology. ShotSpotter detects gunfire and automatically sends officers to the scene.

Durham City Councilman Mark Anthony Middleton has been pushing for ShotSpotter. He said that the technology can help police get to the scene quicker so they can collect evidence and have a better chance of catching the suspects.

“If you’re a repeat shooter, and we get you off the street, there might be some future shootings we may have stopped,” Middleton said.

Ralph A. Clark, CEO for ShotSpotter, said it is a game-changing technology that can help reduce crime.

“It enables law enforcement, when properly used, to drive focused interventions on the few serial shooters that drive the vast majority of gun crime,” Clark said.

Police departments in North Carolina that currently use ShotSpotter include Wilmington, Rocky Mount, and Goldsboro.

Malcolm Phelps, Director of the Real Time Crime Center for Wilmington police, said their department has used ShotSpotter technology for 10 years.

“When there are gunshots, the technology works really well,” Phelps said.

Phelps said the technology will even let officers know if the shots were fired from a moving vehicle, what direction the suspect went, and how fast they were going.

“We’ve been able to identify some significant players over the years and they are now incarcerated in long sentences after having lived a violent life. They are no longer plaguing our community,” Phelps said.

While Phelps said that ShotSpotter has helped bring crime down in Wilmington, other cities have said they didn’t have much luck with it. The City of Charlotte ended its contract with ShotSpotter in 2016.

In a City Council-Manager memo, it said: “While the service performed as designed and within contract agreements, CMPD was not successful in identifying, arresting, and prosecuting persons responsible for illegally discharging firearms in the areas of coverage as frequently as hoped.”

Officials with Charlotte-Mecklenburg police declined an interview but said they have had a recent change in administration and they are considering re-introducing ShotSpotter in their community. Gun violence has also plagued Charlotte, which has had more than 100 homicides in 2020.

In Durham, some city leaders had voiced concerns about the technology possibly leading to over-policing in some communities.

The Durham city council is expected to discuss ShotSpotter again in the coming weeks.

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