A pair of deadly shootings recently went undetected by ShotSpotter, the controversial gunshot detection technology currently being piloted by the city of Durham. A spokesperson for the Durham Police Department told CBS17 that police did not receive an alert for a Feb. 5 shooting at Fay and Juniper Streets and a shooting last Thursday on Park Avenue. Both shootings resulted in two total deaths.
These reports come a month after a drive-by shooting on New Year’s Day that injured five people also went undetected by ShotSpotter. All three shootings fell within the three square miles that Shotspotter was monitoring. The area represents only 2.7% of the total landmass of the city, but accounts for roughly one in three gunshot wounds.
Durham Mayor Pro Tempore Mark-Anthony Middleton, an early advocate for piloting the technology in Durham, defended its continued usage. He said to CBS17 that it was important to “look at all of the data” given the initiative is currently only two months into the year-long pilot.
“Any specific data point where we miss something is bothersome and disturbing, but we have to keep in mind that this is a piece of technology. My cell phone dropped a call last week, I’m not throwing my cell phone out.” Middleton told CBS17.
According to its monthly report for January, ShotSpotter sent the Durham Police 197 alerts, detecting 998 rounds fired. In its contract with the city, ShotSpotter commits to detecting and locating 90% of unsuppressed outdoor gunfire when the fired rounds are above .25 caliber.
Durham County began its one-year pilot of ShotSpotter last December. The system relies on sensors placed on buildings that can flag sounds that might be gunfire or explosions. The audio is then sent to ShotSpotter’s “Incident Review Center” where it is manually confirmed. Pollice can then be sent to the area.
“We are sending our deepest condolences to the community impacted by the recent shooting that took place in Durham, NC. We have investigated the situation and provided a report to the Durham Police Department,” the company wrote in a statement.
Last September, the Durham school board voted to prohibit ShotSpotter from installing its sensors on school campuses. One board member deemed it an “item of surveillance.” Local residents have also raised concerns that the technology may result in an increased police presence that could make racial profiling a more prevalent issue.
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Jazper Lu is a Trinity junior and managing editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.