Apr 1, 2024 - News

Some alders want to decide whether to keep ShotSpotter in their wards

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Supporters say ShotSpotter gets police to a shooting scene even if it wasn't called into 911. Opponents say it leads to very few gun-related arrests. Photo: Armando L. Sanchez/Tribune News Service via Getty

An ordinance that would empower alders to decide whether to keep gunshot technology ShotSpotter in their wards is headed to the full City Council for a vote this month.

Why it matters: If passed, the measure would challenge Mayor Brandon Johnson's plans to end the city's use of the controversial technology this fall, and it would put more power into the hands of council members for violence-prevention funding decisions.

Catch up quick: In February, the mayor fulfilled a campaign promise by deciding not to extend the city's ShotSpotter contract another year. (Johnson's plan would keep the technology in place through mid-September, several weeks after the Democratic National Convention will be held at the United Center.)

  • That same month, Ald. David Moore (17th) introduced an ordinance to require the Chicago Police Department to collect and report more data about ShotSpotter's accuracy, but also to require a City Council vote before the mayor removes "any violence prevention funding," including ShotSpotter.
  • A committee advanced the proposal Monday, and it'll go before the full Council on April 17.

Between the lines: Critics of the technology have long pointed to reports, including a 2021 city inspector general study, that ShotSpotter is largely ineffective and leads to false reports of gunshots.

  • But supporters, including Chicago police officials, say it's often the first alert to criminal activity that officers receive and helps authorities respond quickly and gather evidence.

Friction point: Some alders who spoke at the committee hearing don't like that Johnson ended the city's ShotSpotter contract without their input, though that's the mayor's prerogative.

  • Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) said the decision should have gone through the procurement process.
  • "I just don't get it," Ald. Monique Scott (24th) said at the hearing. "We all work in these 50 wards, but don't have a voice. Who are we speaking for?"
  • Scott also criticized the mayor for keeping the tech in place through the DNC: "I want to go on record and say either it works or it don't. And if it's working for the DNC, then it needs to work for the constituents here in the city of Chicago."
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