Durham leaders agree to move forward with ShotSpotter funding to tackle gun violence
DURHAM, NC (WNCN) – On Thursday afternoon, a majority of city council members expressed support for implementing ShotSpotter, so now gun detection technology will move forward in the city’s budget process. town.
During a budget brainstorming session, Pro Tem Mayor of Durham Mark Anthony Middleton called on members of council to support funding for a one-year pilot program of ShotSpotter technology.
This would involve placing sensors around the city that would detect gunshots, alert the police and dispatch officers to the scene. The idea is to increase scene response times and better alert police to gunshots, as not all shooting incidents are reported to the police.
Middleton said the first three months are part of a free trial and the remaining nine months of the year will cost the city $197,500.
“I propose that for less than what we pay in salary to our senior executive, we hire a serious pilot to collect data to see if this is a tool that could help us,” Middleton said.
Council member Charlie Reece spoke after Middleton, saying he thinks there needs to be more discussion about it.
“I think the council should really hear from people in the community before they invest money in this technology,” Reece said.
But Councilman Leonardo Williams said he believes now is the right time to move forward with the technology.
“To suggest that we push it a little longer while people are getting shot and killed every week – I think the listening has been done and I think it’s time for us to act on it” , Williams said.
Council member DeDreana Freeman said she heard gunshots in her neighborhood every night.
“I fully support a pilot, it’s worth having a conversation in the community while the pilot is in progress,” Freeman said.
Last year in Durham, homicides increased by 35% and the city continues to average at least two shootings a day.
Gun violence has been a problem in Durham for years, peaking in 2020 with nearly 1,000 shootings and 318 people shot dead.
Council member Javiera Caballero said she wondered if this was the right technology to use to solve the problem.
“I lived in Chicago where they spent an inordinate amount of money on policing and strategies like this, and the gun violence hasn’t gone down and it has been for years,” Caballero said. “There are other ways to help us have real community safety. Until we actually do something to regulate guns in this country, we will fail again and again.
Mayor Elaine O’Neal said she was in favor of trying the technology.
“In light of all the people dying on our streets, it’s one thing in the toolbox that we have the opportunity to try for free,” O’Neal said.
But council member Jillian Johnson said just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s the right solution. She recalled a time in Chicago when a child was fatally shot by police after officers responded to a ShotSpotter alert.
“I want to give people the right solution to their problem, not just something, because they want something and because it’s free,” Johnson said.
Four of the city council’s seven members were in favor of ShotSpotter at Thursday’s meeting. Since a majority of board members were in favor of the technology, it will move forward in the budget process.
The final budget will be presented to City Council by the Director General in June.