Chicago Drops ShotSpotter

Mayor says city won't renew contract with provider of controversial detection system
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 13, 2024 6:17 PM CST
Chicago Won't Renew ShotSpotter Contract
Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson, addresses a crowd at the Old Post Office.   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, file)

Chicago won't renew its ShotSpotter contract and plans to stop using the controversial gunshot detection system later this year, Mayor Brandon Johnson's office announced Tuesday. The system, which relies on an artificial intelligence algorithm and network of microphones to identify gunshots, has been criticized for inaccuracy, racial bias, and law enforcement misuse, the AP reports. An AP investigation of the technology detailed how police and prosecutors used ShotSpotter data as evidence in charging a Chicago grandfather with murder before a judge dismissed the case due to insufficient evidence.

Chicago's contract with SoundThinking, a public safety technology company that says its ShotSpotter tool is used in roughly 150 cities, expires Friday. The city plans to wind down use of ShotSpotter technology by late September, according to city officials. Since 2018, the city has spent $49 million on ShotSpotter. Johnson's office said that during the interim period, law enforcement and community safety groups would "assess tools and programs that effectively increase both safety and trust," and issue recommendations.

Johnson, a first-term mayor, campaigned on a promise to end the use of ShotSpotter, putting him at odds with police leaders who have praised the system. They argue that crime rates—not residents' race—determine where the technology is deployed. Community public safety groups argue that the system sends police officers to predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods for often unnecessary and hostile encounters. Issues with accuracy, for instance when the technology has mistakenly identified fireworks or motorcycle sounds as gunshots, have prompted cities including Charlotte, North Carolina, and San Antonio, Texas, to end their ShotSpotter contracts.

(More ShotSpotter stories.)

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