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NYC comptroller criticizes NYPD’s shotspotter, calls for termination of contract

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NYC Comptroller Brad Lander sharply criticized the NYPD’s ShotSpotter technology, describing the gunfire detection system as an ineffective and costly endeavor.

In a newly released audit, Lander’s office revealed that ShotSpotter, a network of sound sensors designed to detect gunfire, correctly identified shootings only 13% of the time. The audit claims that false alerts have led to significant wasted police resources, with officers spending thousands of hours responding to erroneous activations.

“The evidence shows that NYPD is wasting precious time and money on this technology and needs to do a better job managing its resources. Chasing down car backfires and construction noise does not make us safer,” Lander stated. He recommends that New York City follow the example of cities like Chicago, Atlanta, and Portland by not renewing its contract with ShotSpotter.

The audit covered an eight-month period between 2022 and 2023, analyzing 7,262 incidents where ShotSpotter alerts did not result in confirmed shootings. Lander argues that the technology has failed to deliver on its promise of providing fast and accurate gunfire detection.

In response, the NYPD defended the technology, asserting that ShotSpotter has been instrumental in saving lives and apprehending shooters. Police officials announced plans to integrate ShotSpotter with drones to enhance response times to reported shootings.

The NYPD also issued a six-page rebuttal, emphasizing that it is the responsibility of the responding officers to determine the presence of a shooting and noting that ballistic evidence may not always be found, especially in cases involving revolvers or drive-by shootings.

The debate over ShotSpotter’s efficacy and cost-effectiveness continues as city officials weigh the future of the technology in New York City’s crime-fighting toolkit.

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