The Oakland Police Department (OPD) is considering ending its use of ShotSpotter, an electronic sound detection system that the city has used for the past eight years to detect gunfire in East and West Oakland, including the location and number of gunshots fired.
The system, which is known for “increasing community awareness and improving police-community relations,” costs the city $348,000 a year.
OPD has previously said that those funds could be better used for its helicopter program. However, city councilmembers have expressed no interest in ending the ShotSpotter program in Oakland and want to renew the city’s contract that is set to end in August.
“This is a serious issue that Oakland is facing, and ShotSpotter allows police to respond a lot sooner to bring some kind of order in our neighborhood(s),” said Councilmember Noel Gallo, Chair of the Public Safety Committee.
According to a recent report prepared by OPD staff and presented at a recent Public Safety meeting, over 16,000 rounds of gunfire were fired in Oakland last year.
The report also notes that, “timely and accurate information provided by [ShotSpotter] allows OPD to respond more rapidly, which increases the opportunity to capture perpetrators.”
“Right now, our police force is understaffed and we need to provide the tools necessary for our police to respond, not just to emergencies but to gun activity throughout the city. It’s a good investment of our resources to improve public safety,” Gallo said.
A recent audit of ShotSpotter shows that “every two hours and four minutes, a gun is fired in Oakland.”
Vice Mayor Larry Reid and Councilmember At-Large Rebecca Kaplan recently coauthored a letter to the city administration specifically saying they would not support any budget revision “proposal that eliminates funding for ShotSpotter.”
The system tracks gunshots within four seconds after it is fired, and sends alerts to patrol officers, reporting 98 percent of incidents.
“This is a very important investment in public safety,” said Jason Overman, spokesman for Councilmember Kaplan. “It’s a tremendous technological resource – it tells officers how many times shots were fired, what caliber, specific locations, and very important distinctions that the average ear is not trained to detect, even the direction from which the gunshot came.”
The Public Safety Committee unanimously approved renewing the ShotSpotter contract on May 13. OPD will need to get approval of City Council before ending the contract.