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Kansas City Gunshot Detection System Called Ineffective in Homicide Prevention

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A surveillance technology used by the Kansas City Police Department to detect the location of gunshots is coming under increasing criticism for failing to reduce the city’s high homicide rate and for its placement in minority neighborhoods, reports KCUR. In the decade since the city began using ShotSpotter, the city’s homicide rate has not only climbed but set new records. At least one national study looked at ShotSpotter’s impact in 68 large metropolitan U.S. counties from 1999 to 2016 and found that the technology “had no significant impact” on homicides or arrests.

Another criticism of the program is that it’s used solely in minority neighborhoods. In addition, although the company promises a 97 percent audio accuracy rate, critics suggest other sounds can trigger the system, like fireworks, a slammed door or a car’s back-fire. In Kansas City, there have been 104 homicides so far this year, and last year was the second-deadliest in city history, with 157 homicides, following a record 182 killings in 2020. Despite questions and criticisms, the Board of Police Commissioners approved another two-year, $370,000 contract for ShotSpotter last October.

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