Durham Schools, residents resist ShotSpotter demand to install gunshot detectors on their buildings

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DURHAM, North Carolina — A company that sells and installs controversial gunshot detection technology is looking to install its technology throughout Durham.

ShotSpotter’s gunshot detection system has already been approved by the City Council for use by the Durham Police Service over three square miles to the east and south of Durham. The city is paying nearly $200.00 for a one-year pilot program.

The technology is intended to help the city identify and deploy police to an area where gunshots were heard, even if no 911 call was made. Unlike other forms of police surveillance, ShotSpotter only uses audio to detect gunshots.

The gunshot detection system was supposed to be operational in September, but due to delays in technology that city leaders said were “out of [their] control”, the system will not be put into operation until mid-November.

The Durham Public School Board said in a meeting on Thursday evening that ShotSpotter contacted them on September 2 to ask them to bring its technology to six of the school system’s buildings.

The council was concerned about how often technology would prompt police to rush onto a school campus for a false alarm.

A report examining ShotSpotter technology in Chicago found the technology dispatched police to parts of the city more than 60 times a day on false alarms. As a result, technology has increased the incidence of stop and search tactics by police officers, according to the ACLU.

However, the City of Durham claims that an independent audit shows that ShotSpotter has an overall accuracy rate of 97%.

Board member Natalie Beyer said she doesn’t think the technology is necessary.

“I would be interested in future conversations about a buffer, about not having ShotSpotter within a certain radius of our buildings,” she said.

The school board decided not to bring the technology to six of the school’s buildings; however, a board member said she was not averse to the technology.

“I definitely trust their judgement,” board member Jovonia Lewis said of Durham City Council. “It’s really not my position to judge the effectiveness or the project itself.”

Pro-Tempore Durham City Mayor Mark-Anthony Middleton has been a strong supporter of ShotSpotter and condemned Thursday night’s board decision.

“The irony of some council members using the same ‘surveillance’ talking points that have been rejected by the people of Durham, while running an organization that uses video cameras en masse to surveil people and goods every day, cannot be overstated,” he said. said.

ShotSpotter also attempted to have its technology installed on the roof of a condominium building on Magnum Street.

The board that manages the building also voted not to install this technology.

WRAL News asked ShotSpotter if the reason the tech was delayed until November 15 is because they’re having trouble getting permission from business owners to install their tech.

A company spokesperson said ShotSpotter is still in the process of “obtaining the required permission” to place its 78 detectors in Durham city centre. They also said the company had already obtained permission from several other building owners.

A public forum to discuss ShotSpotter’s technology will be held Monday at 5 p.m. at the Burton Elementary Media Center located at 1500 Mathison Street.

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