DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – As gun violence continues to be a problem in Durham, a majority of city council members have said they support moving forward with implementing the gunfire detection technology, ShotSpotter, to address the issue.
ShotSpotter sensors are placed in areas of the city and will automatically send officers when gunfire is detected. The idea behind the technology is to speed up police response times and save lives.
Through an open records request, CBS 17 obtained emails sent to Durham City Council members both in support of the technology and opposing it.
Rose Sanchez lives on Belvin Avenue in Braggtown where she said she hears gunfire every weekend.
She said last summer there were times she would call 911 to report a shooting and it was hard to get through.
“I would call several times and it would ring and ring,” Sanchez said.
She emailed Durham City Council members in support of trying ShotSpotter technology.
She’s hopeful ShotSpotter will ensure police respond to shootings.
“The entire community needs to be safe,” Sanchez said. “We pay our taxes, we need to see something for it.”
Constance Wright also lives in the same neighborhood as Sanchez and she also wrote Durham City Council members in support of trying the technology.
“Nothing beats a failure but a try,” Wright said. “Especially if ShotSpotter can do anything, as far as curtailing these shootings all over the city.”
Wright said she would also like to see the city implement video cameras along with the ShotSpotter audio sensors.
CBS 17 also interviewed a grandmother who lives on Belvin Avenue who wanted to remain anonymous.
She was brought to tears during the interview, because she said her street is not safe enough for her grandchildren to play outside.
“We have to call them right back in if we hear a noise from a car coming down the street because we don’t know if a car is going to be shooting or something,” she said.
But even inside her home, she still does not feel safe, as at least two bullets have flown into her home on two different occasions, one even flying right over her bed.
“Things happen so close to home you have no other choice but to fear,” the grandmother said.
She is hoping that the gunfire detection technology will ensure police respond to every shooting, and hopefully help address this issue.
“If a shot‘s fired and someone falls down in that area, then they have a chance of being saved, instead of laying out there dying,” she said.
But there were also several neighbors who emailed city council members about their concerns about the technology.
A former police senior planner said he had concerns about the long-term cost of the program to the city.
Right now, the $197,500 program is a one-year pilot program that will be reviewed after the first year to see if the city wants to continue it.
But this former planner said in his email to city council that it ‘could lead to police having to standup dedicated units to respond to activations as priority calls.’
Other concerned citizens said in an email to council they are concerned ShotSpotter alerts would put Black and Brown families at risk of dangerous encounters with armed law enforcement.
A group Campaign Zero, has launched a website called “Cancel ShotSpotter,” that highlights concerns about the technology.
Drew B., another Durham citizen who lives just north of downtown Durham, wrote to city council and expressed his support for ShotSpotter.
“I look at this tool as a drop in the bucket, it’s $200,000, in a city budget of millions of dollars,” Drew said. “It’s such a small thing. If we can save one life, or deter one crime, it’s a winner. I look at it as another option for us in this complex issue.”
A majority of city council members have voiced their support for trying the technology, but there will be a budget hearing on June 6 where citizens can voice their thoughts and concerns to the council.
Durham City Council will approve the final budget on June 20.