DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – The Durham Police Department has been working for months on preparations to implement the gunfire detection technology, ShotSpotter, which automatically sends police officers to scenes where shots are fired.
This comes as the problem with gun violence continues in the city, and supporters have said this technology could speed up police response times to shooting scenes and potentially save lives.
Police preparations for implementing the technology began in March after the Durham City Council voted to set aside $197,000 for a one-year pilot program where the city could try the technology.
On Thursday morning, Durham Police Chief Patrice Andrews gave an update to the council on efforts to deploy the technology as early as September.
Andrews said they have not finalized where in the city the technology will be implemented, but she said it will be an area that has been hit hard by gun violence.
“You look at where are the clusters, where are the shootings happening, where are some of the homicides happening,” Andrews said.
In a one-on-one interview, CBS 17 asked Andrews if she thinks ShotSpotter will help address the problem with gun violence in the city.
“Potentially, ShotSpotter could help with the violent crime,” Andrews said. “I say potentially because I just don’t know what ShotSpotter will mean for the city of Durham.”
So far this year 96 people have been shot in Durham and 17 of those people have died. Last year was a record-breaking year in Durham for homicides, and last year 17 people had died around this time as well.
“We are at a point where we have to try something,” Andrews said. “Violent crime right here in Durham and beyond is staggering and certainly people are losing their lives.”
CBS 17 asked Andrews if ShotSpotter could speed up police response times to shootings and help police solve more cases.
“Obviously, we’ve had cases in the past where there have been unreported sound of shots or we couldn’t figure out where the shots were coming from and someone was injured, so success would be able to save someone or there may not have been shots fired call,” Andrews said.
But ShotSpotter has not come without some opposition, as some city council members are concerned this could lead to an unnecessary police presence in certain neighborhoods if this technology sends officers where there was no gunfire.
“I think it’s important for us to have some kind of reality-based metric in order to determine whether it’s an effective use of public funding,” said Jillian Johnson, a Durham City Council member.
CBS 17 asked Andrews if she has concerns about ShotSpotter leading to what some call “over policing” in certain communities.
“I think you always have to keep that in the back of your mind,” Andrews said. “My responsibility as chief of police is to make sure that we don’t go into a situation where we are responding in a reckless manner and that we are not conducting some of the practices that have been known to really disparage and disproportionately affect members of some of our most vulnerable communities.”
Andrews said they will be looking at metrics to see how effective ShotSpotter is in one community and then compare it to another community where it will not be implemented.
She said they will use this to help determine if to continue the program and she said input from the community will also determine if the program will continue.
“To our community, I hear you, and understand the concerns about ShotSpotter, and we at the police department pledge transparency through the process,” Andrews said.
Andrews said the city plans to hold community meetings where officials with ShotSpotter will meet with community members and keep them informed about the implementation of the technology.