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Baltimore's Board of Estimates votes to extend ShotSpotter contract, some call it a waste of taxpayers' dollars

baltimore city crime
Posted at 8:52 PM, Nov 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-04 05:57:16-04

BALTIMORE — Baltimore’s Board of Estimates voted Wednesday to continue the city’s ShotSpotter program.

It will cost the city nearly $760,000 to extend the contract.

“It allows us to get to the scene faster, render aid to victims and save lives," said Lt. Col. Jack Herzog with the Baltimore City Police Department.

ShotSpotter uses audio sensors placed throughout the city to alert police of gunfire.

Herzog said it’s been an important tool to help them fight crime.

“Many neighborhoods would not be getting the same level of response following a gun related incident. We simply wouldn’t know about it.”

ShotSpotter first launched in Baltimore in 2018.

Since then, there’s been more than 8500 shot spotter alerts, police said.

In 804 of those incidents, a shooting victim was found. Police also said 88 percent of those alerts were not reported to 911.

“ShotSpotter allows the unknown to become known," Herzog said.

The city also hopes to use the data to address trauma and mental health in certain communities

“I am the biggest skeptic," said Mayor Brandon Scott.

Despite voting for an extension, Scott said he still questions the effectiveness of the technology.

“We will be looking at this tool in a more in-depth way as we move forward in the future," he said.

“Literally, I just lost a cousin this year, Tavon Anderson. It didn’t save his life and it’s not saving anyone’s life," said Tawanda Jones, who is a community activist.

Jones is an advocate for police reform and has been holding rallies every Wednesday since 2013 to honor her brother who died in police custody.

She calls the program a waste of taxpayers dollars.

“We need to invest in making us safe. because right now we are not safe," she said.

With the approval from the BOE, the ShotSpotter program will continue until next July.

ShotSpotter sent a statement about the company's technology:

“ShotSpotter has been in operation for 25 years, serves more than 120 cities, and has earned trust and high renewal rates from police departments across the country. By itself, ShotSpotter is not a cure-all for the gun violence epidemic, but it is a critical part of a comprehensive gun crime response strategy. With over 80% of gunfire incidents not reported to 911, ShotSpotter fills that data gap by alerting police to virtually all gunfire within 60 seconds – enabling a fast, precise police response to shooting incidents – helping to save lives, capture critical evidence, and make communities safer.”