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Mobile hopes to have gunshot detection system up and running by mid-2022


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    MOBILE, Alabama (WALA) — It looks like a gunshot detection system could be on its way to Mobile as long as it passes one final hurdle.

It comes after a year of rising violent crime in the area.

The City Council is set to consider the technology for the first time on Tuesday.

The three-year agreement will cost Mobile more than $600,000.

The city hopes the gunshot detection system along with several other pieces of tech will help combat violent crime.

“We believe it will be an effective tool for us as we to try and combat violent crime in our community,” said Mobile Public Safety Director Lawrence Battiste.

The city council will get its first look at the $640,000 three-year contract with ShotSpotter Tuesday. In the agreement, the company says its tech can pinpoint shootings within 82 feet and notify police of a reported gunshot within a minute, 90% of the time.

Battiste says the system would be implemented with Alabama Power who will add cameras and better lighting.

“I don’t believe and other members of my team don’t believe that it would be an effective tool by itself but the ability to integrate it with all of the other things that we have in place I believe it will be an effective tool here in the City of Mobile,” Battiste said.

ShotSpotter uses a network of microphones and sensors.

In July, a ShotSpotter spokesperson told FOX10 News police will be alerted in seconds which means officers can get notified before a 911 call.

“We have a saying that when it comes to shootings time is tissue meaning that the faster you can get the victim to medical care the better outcomes,” said Phil Dailly with ShotSpotter.

ShotSpotter is in over 120 cities, including Birmingham and Montgomery.

The company says their technology has had a lot of success, but an August 2021 report from the Inspector General for the City of Chicago criticizes the effectiveness of ShotSpotter. The report says “alerts rarely produce documented evidence of a gun-related crime.”

ShotSpotter has disputed that claim and said in a statement their “…accuracy has been independently audited…”

Battiste is hopeful the new tech will be beneficial here.

“Our goal is to make sure this technology does what it’s supposed to do, serve as an enhancement to the tools we already have in place to try and do better in our community,” he said.

The locations of the sensors will not be released.

Battiste says he expects violent crime to drop in the long run with the tech.

If it is approved in the next few weeks, the city hopes to have the system up and running by about June or July.

Funding for the technology is coming from a portion of the American Rescue Plan given to Mobile.

ShotSpotter released this statement about the Chicago report:

“The Chicago Police Department continually describes ShotSpotter as an important part of their operations. The OIG report did not specifically suggest that ShotSpotter alerts are not indicative of actual gunfire whether or not a police report is filed or physical evidence is recovered. It is important to note that traditional 911 calls for service from community members during this same time period resulted in a police report or evidence found in only 16 percent of incidents, no better than ShotSpotter alerts at 17 percent, and there is universal agreement about the value of the 911 system. ShotSpotter’s accuracy has been independently audited at 97 percent based on feedback from more than 120 customers. We would defer to the Chicago Police Department to respond to the value the department gets from being able to precisely respond to criminal incidents of gunfire.”

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