ShotSpotter failed system baltimore
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Depending on who’s doing the counting, Baltimore consistently shows up among the most violent cities in the US. Charm City’s known for its crab cakes, its public corruption and the number of people shot to death on the city’s streets every year.

With a record like that, you might think a cash-strapped city with huge social problems sinking some of its scarce tax dollars into a system like ShotSpotter might make sense. Anything to help reduce crime, right? In fact, Baltimore turned the system on last week.

The network relies on dozens of audio sensors installed 30 to 40 feet off the ground. Each sensor records the sound, time and location of sudden noises like booms and bangs. These recordings are filtered through computer algorithms and screened by listeners day and night at ShotSpotter headquarters in California and by police analysts in Baltimore. They send the cellphone alerts within seconds. Sensors retain the recordings for 72 hours.

ShotSpotter System Gunshots Police Baltimore Failure Crime Rate

The Baltimore Sun’s impressed so far.

Gunshots broke out shortly after 6 p.m. Thursday, and within moments Baltimore police officers nearby received an alert on their cellphones.

The message told them gunfire was detected at 6:08 p.m. on Eutaw Place in Bolton Hill. A map of the location appeared on their phones. Officers arrived within seconds.

Those shots were the first recorded by Baltimore’s new gunshot detection system, a series of audio sensors on streetlights and rooftops listening to five square miles of West Baltimore. On Friday, police announced that the long-awaited ShotSpotter network had recorded four incidents of gunfire during its first night on the job.

Impressive. But receiving a text and making an arrest are two different things. You have to wonder if Baltimore’s leaders did any due diligence before signing the ShotSpotter contract. Did they talk to anyone in, say, San Antonio where the city scrapped the system due to lack of discernible results?

It cost the city $270,000 to put ShotSpotters on the city’s crime-ridden east and west sides, but police Chief William McManus said the program’s results don’t match up with its hefty price tag.

“The measure of success for the police department would be arrests and case closures, and we have not seen it at all. We’ve gotten four arrests,” McManus said.

After 15 months of pouring money down an armadillo hole, San Antonio figured the money would be better spent on hiring more cops.

As this table from analyst site shows, cities that have installed ShotSpotter have gotten precious little bang for their tax payers’ bucks.

Shotspotter System Failure Cities Scrap False Reports Arrests

Why so few arrests from so many alerts? Because as cities that have installed the system found, ShotSpotter generates a huge number of false reports. And even when the alerts are good, the shooter’s usually gone by the time police arrive.

So with a record like that — what MOXReports calls “a 23 year history of uninterrupted commercial and financial failure” — why would Baltimore install the system?

First, never underestimate the power of incompetence. It’s quite possible that Baltimore’s mayor and police chief fell for ShotSpotter’s sales pitch, promising hundreds, if not thousands of alerts (again, not arrests). Plus, the first year is paid for by Bloomberg Philanthropies, one Mayor Mike’s anti-gun slush funds.

But the more likely reason Baltimore gave the go-ahead is that installing the (at best) questionably effective system lets police and those in city government tell voters that they’re DOING SOMETHING about crime. That will make for good local news sound bites, hopefully keeping them happy. For now. At least until Baltimore begins reporting arrest statistics like those in Kansas City, Milwaukee, Omaha, San Francisco and yes, San Antonio.

But by then, another election cycle will have come and gone and the next crime solution du jour can be touted for the local media and voters’ consumption. A fix that will require still more tax dollars that the city doesn’t have. Same as it ever was.

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    • “Why? ‘Cuz guns.”

      Yes and no.

      Why, because it was a politically easy decision to make for a politically-weak ruling administration. It doesn’t ask a lot of uncomfortable questions, it provides data that can be interpreted in any way the politicians that ordered it want it to say.

      They pushed the politics ‘Easy’ button.

      The city ‘leaders’ did nothing while loudly proclaiming they did something…

      • Wrong. The city leaders got kickbacks from Shot Spotter. Which is all they care about. Life will make so much more sens if you follow the money bitchez.

        • Also it gives the appearance that they are doing something when actually they do not give a damn. Another Chicago style hell hole to create statistics for gun control.

    • Anti-gun Sheriff in Las Vegas (LVMPD) is about to spend millions on implementing this worthless POS system there as well. It certainly isn’t about effectiveness, it is just another paragraph in “The Narrative”.

      This is the same knob who claimed to be ‘neutral’ during his last election and right after he was in office, wrote articles for local papers promoting bans on hi-cap magazines, using weasel-words about “things have changed in 200 years since our founding fathers…blah…a discussion on assault weapons” (read: BAN), and said on local radio (News Talk 840AM KXNT) regarding protests “I don’t care about the 2nd Amendment, my officer safety comes first”.

  1. How about a drug detection system for quantities of heroin? That is Baltimore’s problem. Sure, people get shot for selling bunk drugs or trying to rob a dealer. I would bet that 90% of shootings in Baltimore are drug related.

    • Much cheaper and easier to return liberty than to continue criminalizing drugs. Decriminalizing drugs could also be a positive for the innocent Mexicans in Mexico.

      • Yes… because the opium wars clearly were never a thing.

        I have a simpler solution. Summary execution of anybody convicted of a narcotics offense.

        • The U.S. government uses the illegal drug trade for their secret operations. They protected the opium growers in Afghanistan using the military. The U.S. secret forces assassinate drug lords that don’t play ball with them. Most of the world’s opium comes out of this operation. Not only does it help the U.S. government, it helps Islamic terrorists fund their terrorist attacks and take-overs of countries.

          Then there is everything south of the American border. Massive operations to bring illegal drugs into the U.S. to fulfill demand and further the police state in the U.S. The War On Poverty and the No Child Left Behind programs only created more poverty and dumber people. The War On Drugs made the U.S. and other countries more dangerous; it also made the imprisonment system richer and gave police an excuse to militarize.

          Alcohol is a drug. They tried to get rid of it. They made America worse, to the point they abandoned the idea instead of allowing drug pushers to thrive. These days the only drug pushers they allow to freely thrive are the ones they control.

          The U.S. is supposed to be a place where responsible adults have their liberty. They market it as, “The land of the free and the home of the brave.” It’s not, “The land of the oppressed and the home of the cowards.”

          I don’t like drugs and I don’t like drug users. I don’t drink, smoke or inject. I never used an illegal drug; that includes cannabis. I have friends that do — that’s their business and personal choice. I won’t call the SWAT team to come shoot them or put them in a cage for their choice to ruin their brain and body. Joe Rogan can smoke all the pot he wants and say how awesome it is for you, I am not going to run out to buy some and start smoking.

        • I think you’re grossly underestimating the negative impact hard drugs have on a society. Unlike tobacco and alcohol, certain drugs can destroy a life from a single dose. People who traffic in this sort of poison effectively murder millions for money. As with most things, freedoms come with responsibilities. Just as we don’t let gun owners fire randomly into the air without consequences. We shouldn’t allow people to destroy themselves or others with opioids given the inevitable collateral damage involved.

        • CZJay – that you have, and brag about having dopers a “friends” says as much about you as them and that whatever you think is irrelevant. And that you are hard up/have a low bar for “friend”.

  2. Because they’re democrats who are experts at pissing away cash on frivolous crap.

  3. Looks good to pinpoint where possible gunshots occur…then concentrate manpower in those areas.
    As far as real-time reaction…does not appear to work that well. Unless you already have officers on the scene as it happens.
    And if/when arrests are made, need to prosecute harshly…not let them off with probation.

    • Shotspotter is designed to do one thing: alert the police when a shot has been fired, and give the location of said shot.
      Without Shotspotter, the police have to rely on either their own ears, or those of the people near the shots.
      Lately, the people near the shots have grown tired of hearing a shot (or shots), calling the police, waiting for the police, then spend time answering questions by the late-to-respond police, all for nothing of any consequence as far as the people are concerned. The result is a drop in the number of shots fired calls (without a drop in the number of shots actually fired).
      Shotspotter is designed to address that drop in calls.
      The problem is that SHotspotter doesn’t address the problem of response time. At all. All it does is give better location data. Instead of knowing the shot came from the vicinity of 38th street and Maple, Shotspotter tells the police the shot came from the northeast corner of that intersection. However, if, when the police get there, there’s no shooter there, that more precise data does no good, except to give a better location in the report.
      So, we hear about how well Shotspotter spots the gunfire, but very little about how it has lowered actual crime.

      Sort of how we hear very little about how this comment section has actually been made better (i.e., made to work right. I still do not find the “Notify me of follow-up comments by email” button to do anything.)

  4. Because we’re talking about a government solution here. Throwing money down the drain is par the course.

  5. Minneapolis has had a “ShotSpotter” System in place since May 1st, 2012, Brooklyn since May 28th, 2016 and Las Vegas since October 10th, 2017. There’s even one at the Presidential Retreat at Camp David.

  6. Didn’t Chiraq install this gizmo years ago? Hasn’t made a difference in anything.

  7. Just sounds like another “feel good” measure. No real results, but it makes folks feel good that “something” is being done. Good luck with that.

    • In addition to being able to claim that government is “doing something”, that government can also funnel several hundred thousand dollars to the entity of their choice — with appropriate kick-backs in campaign contributions or payola.

  8. Local governments seem to operate in a vacuum. They routinely make the same mistakes others have and constantly spout hyperbolic nonsense that have proven false time and again like “streets will run with blood.”

    Or is it hubris? They believe they are special and can get to work what others could not by virtue of being Baltimore or whoever else they happen to be.

  9. Technically, “We The People” placed “ShotSpotters” within the United States after the World Trade Center attack of September 11, 2001 and the formation of the Department of Homeland Security in November 25, 2002. By giving the US Government Broad Powers to Keep American Borders and Cities Safe. So were all to blame on that call, even though We The People weren’t exactly looking at this type of technology after September 2001.

  10. Now the cops know where the trouble is. Makes it easier for them to go home at the end of shift.

    • No. They already know where the problems are in Baltimore from millions of data points on when and where and how violent crime occurs down to any 10′ section of any city block.
      And what would make it easier for them to make it home alive at the end of their shift would be judges who actually sentence bad guys to jail, and prosecutors who spend less time chasing meaningless publicity and actually prosecute the bad guys.

      Baltimore studies 2007 and 2015:

      93% to 94% of murder perps have priors. 80% to 81% of murder perps are felons or persons with ten or more criminal arrests.
      91%of murder victims have priors.

      That is why compared to the national average trend, Baltimore murder has fallen with incarceration rate increases, and risen precisely with incarceration rate declines. What Baltimore needs to do is go to mandatory minimums for violent crimes., this is a proven effective major reducer of violent crime

      • Lazy prosecutors are the bane of our society right now. I can tell you that tons of solid cases get dropped because prosecutors just have too high of a case load. Combine that with judges who release almost everyone following their initial appearance and you have a recipe for disaster.

        We go out and arrest the same people again and again for narcotics offenses and violent crimes, then see them on the street the next day. Then everyone acts like it’s an unavoidable tragedy when one of these career criminals kills someone.

  11. I would hope an agency as large as Baltimore has a crime analyst, so there should be little doubt where violent crimes tend to occur.

    This system is a virtue signaling expense.

  12. As mentioned Chiraq does indeed have ShotSplatt… er spotter. They”claim” it’s resulted in less murder and mayhem. Except they’ve flooded the streets with feds and hapless rookie cops. Look for the Tiny Dancer© being re-elected…😧

  13. In Baltimore Shotspotter is mostly “vacant property” spotter. Baltimore has a lot of those. Vacants are a magnet for crime, but the city finance dept refuses to let them go to tax sale. Because, incompetence.

    Fire everybody, raze a good chunk of the city, turn it over to developers.

  14. No mention of Bloomie’s “Donation”? That’s 5 million reasons right there.

    • Answers my question. At least the Dept of “Justice” isn’t funding THIS one. I’d say a damn good plan by Blimpberg but step up to the plate twit with at least 10yr funding. He should be buying one for EVERY demtard inner city. And stay the hell away from the 2nd.

  15. Follow the contracts, follow the money, see where it leaks into political coffers through rent-seeking behavior.

    The entire program is a boondogle- but it’s a well-connected one, politically. Politicians get photo-ops and kickbacks, the company makes bank, contractors get paid… everyone benefits but the taxpayers on the hook for the ridiculous expenses (and they will be FOR YEARS) and, of course, the people who live there and won’t see any benefit.

  16. “…The message told them gunfire was detected at 6:08 p.m. on Eutaw Place in Bolton Hill. A map of the location appeared on their phones. Officers arrived within seconds.”


    It’s a neat story but Officers arriving is kind of anti-climatic. What about the shoot-out that is supposed to be going on because of all the good-guys-with-guns running towards the sound of gun fire with their guns drawn confusing the police as to whom the good and bad guys are?

    Oh… wait…. that only happens in their tiny little heads.

  17. As Orwellian as it may be, I think the only solution to the gang warfare might be to employ the tactics used in Iraq, i.e. engage massive aerial surveillance, and then rewind the tapes when gunshots are spotted, tracking the perps footsteps back to their homes. I don’t want that technology used on our shores, but it did/does work.

    • Hardly Orwellian. Tracking criminals in public spaces is hardly an invasion of privacy.

      • People complain about the militarization of police, but ignore the fact that more and more impoverished areas in this country are starting to resemble a third world war zone.

  18. The Question Is, Why?

    The Answer is, Money. Politicians got paid.

    Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.

  19. Making arrest is meaningless in Baltimore. The police are not the problem, it’s the DA office. They catch these murderers but they don’t have “good enough” evidence so they don’t even try to prosecute. They just get them to do a plea deal down to a lesser charge and the murder is back on the street within a year.

    Just look at the statistics, something like 75% of the people murdered in Baltimore has past criminal convictions and something like 90% of the people who murder also have past criminal convictions. Baltimore doesn’t have a gun problem, they have a repeat offender problem and the justice system is doing nothing about it.

  20. While few arrests, is there any evidence to suggest that the overall level of crime (or more accurately, firearm-discharges) has dropped since installation. I haven’t seen or looked at any data on the matter, but if the system had a deterrent effect that might be enough to justify in the face of the arrest numbers.

    But, like I said, I have seen no data.

  21. Baltimore is just playing politics because even if an officer shows up and does their job they will be punished for being racist

  22. these people just refuse to admit that they can not control crime. and everything they have done has been for not.

  23. The liberal Progressive black leadership of Baltimore cannot bring itself to lock up black criminals murdering and raping other black people. So they will spend a lot of money on this system that really isn’t going to work.

    They’re incapable of facing reality. Because there is a black criminal class that needs to be locked up. And they don’t have the courage to do it.

    It’s a wrap for Baltimore. They’re on their way to becoming just like that empty city called Detroit.

  24. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that more, general surveillance doesn’t need a reason outside itself. Surveillance isn’t *for* something. It *is* something. (Creating a reliable client and buying some votes is actually a secondary benefit.)

  25. One angle that is mentioned here is that such a system could result in lives saved as those who have been shot will be found by police quickly and may get prompt treatment that they would not otherwise.

    My personal suspicion is that such a system could produce useful and actionable data if most of the shootings are highly localized.

  26. They use it because it makes keeping the crime statistics easier. Just print out the report the next morning and you’re done.

    Counting bodies all day is messy and unpleasant.

  27. Why? Well why do we have security cameras?
    I support the initiative; As a Baltimore born, I’m sick of watching my city be in the news for bad sh*** every day.

  28. Excellent points made both by the article and comments that I read. Please note that the company is ever so careful to specify that the system uses “audio sensors” which respond only to “sudden noises like booms and bangs.” Sounds innocuous doesn’t it? It makes it sound like the “sensors” can only monitor gun shots and things that sound like them. Well, let’s call them what they really – really sensitive microphones hooked up to powerful amplifiers which capture every single sound within range of the device 24×7. They have to record it all so those “algorithms” can back up and verify that the sound actually fits within specified parameters (gunshot or firecracker) after it has detected a “boom or a bang” for the sake of validation but the point is that recordings are being made and kept on file for 72 hours (unless, of course, someone elects to make a back-up copy elsewhere – these are digital recordings and a good administrator will make backups – esp. if you need them for evidence down the road) Conversations made in public have no reasonable expectation of privacy but that is premised on the transient nature of conversation and the likelihood that others will only hear bits and pieces of the conversation amid the flotsam without context. It is not promulgated with the notion that recordings are being captured by powerful listening devices and the recordings potentially subjected to a wide range of filtering techniques, after the fact, to focus on one conversation versus the entire spectrum of sounds. Lord Acton, in a letter to an Anglican bishop wrote: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men because of it…” The company and law enforcement will swear that there is no potential for abuse… heard that before from Facebook, Target, Sony and various misc. intelligence agencies… but not while they were busy explaining away the abuses that took place under their watch.

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