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Syracuse police say ShotSpotter is a useful tool for gun violence investigations

Syracuse Police Station
Maxwell Mimaroglu
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Syracuse Police Station downtown. 2/16/2022. (Photo by Max Mimaroglu)

ShotSpotter currently covers about 6.6 square miles in the city, according to Syracuse Chief of Police Joe Cecile. The recent expansion of the technology was funded through ARPA, but it will cost the city $410,000 a year to maintain once that funding runs out.

Syracuse police made the case to Common Councilors Tuesday the technology used to detect gunshots and alert law enforcement is worth keeping. The SPD wants the city to continue funding for ShotSpotter technology on the city’s North, South, and Southwest sides.

Syracuse Police Department Deputy Chief Richard Trudell told Common Councilors its usefulness justifies the price. He said it provides them with important information for their investigations.

“The exact time frame of it so that it helps us marry up the ShotSpotter with other evidence, particularly video evidence. How many shooters, how many rounds were fired by each shooter, the direction of travel. It can tell if it’s from a car that’s going by as opposed to the speed of walking. It helps us locate evidence,” Trudell said.

Cecile said ShotSpotter in Syracuse is accurate 96% of the time in identifying gunshots, rather than sounds like fireworks or cars backfiring.

But some have doubts about just how effective the technology is. Syracuse resident Richard Levy presented to councilors the findings of a recent study done by the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project

“The tool increases police activity and the risk of police violence without producing any significant effect on firearm offenses or shooting victims’ medical outcomes,” Levy said.

But Common Councilor Chol Majok said these studies are too general and can’t determine the device’s value locally.

“I think for us as we look at these studies, we also have to realize each community is different and I have not heard a single thing from our police community that this is something that is not helping them,” Majok said.

Common Councilor Pat Hogan added he knows it’s not only police that support this technology.

“This is favored by folks. Folks out there in those neighborhood groups believe that this makes them safer,” Hogan said.

Syracuse police told councilors they’d like to eventually expand ShotSpotter into parts of the city’s east side, around Parkside Commons. However, they’d need the city to provide the funds for that project as well.