“Investors greeted ShotSpotter with a warm reception on Wednesday, on its first day as a public company,” techcrunch.com. “After pricing the IPO at $11, the stock closed at $13.86, or up about 26 percent.” Here’s a question: why? And here’s an answer: political correctness.
ShotSpotter notifies police departments about gun violence by using sensors that ignore ambient noise. Their sophisticated technology alerts authorities within 45 seconds of the trigger being pulled.
It’s currently used in about 90 cities, including New York, Chicago and San Francisco. ShotSpotter estimates that about 80 percent of gun violence goes unreported, and they are in the process of convincing municipalities worldwide that their technology will reduce fatalities.
Not true! ShotSpotter is trying to convince municipalities worldwide that voters will think the technology will reduce fatalities. Because there is no convincing evidence that the company’s hugely expensive system makes any appreciable effect on “gun violence.”
As we’ve reported ever since ShotSpotter appeared on TTAG’s radar. And an anecdotal evidence from Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suggests that ShotSpotter is as useless as Anne Frank’s drum set. [Note: I’m Jewish.] “It provided no useful data and was usually broken anyway,” TTAG’s resident war hero reveals.
But again, it’s all about perception. And make no mistake, perception pays! Or, in this case, misperception.
According to CEO Ralph Clark, it’s not just about catching assailants, but they hope to deter crime also. “No police response leads to normalization of gun violence,” he claims.
ShotSpotter makes money by charging local governments on an annual subscription basis. According to their IPO filing, they had just $15.5 million in revenue last year and $11.8 million the year before. Losses increased from $6.2 million to $6.9 million in that time frame.
So not the best business in the world, even with their appeal to politicians desperate to spend taxpayer’s money to be seen to be doing something about “gun violence.” Which is why the IPO raised a relatively paltry $30 million (gushing headline notwithstanding). Needless to say, ShotSpotter execs think the future’s so bright their wearing ear muffs.
They are optimistic they will expand to more cities, because clearly “gun violence is a fairly big problem in the U.S. and globally,” said Clark. “We want to continue to invest in customer success,” he said.
Seems ShotSpotter has stopped trying to get their system into schools. And as far as “customer success” is concerned, picture or it didn’t happen. Here we are! Just remember: correlation doesn’t equal causation, how much did it cost The City By The Bay and where’s a specific example of a criminal caught because of Shotspotter? O.K., go!
Just for context, here’s an excerpt from a 2014 article in sfgate.com entitled Oakland cops aim to scrap gunfire-detecting ShotSpotter:
The system, which costs the department $264,000 a year, is expensive and redundant, police contend. They say residents already call to alert police when they hear gunfire, and the money could be better used to fund other technology, such as the police helicopter.
On the positive side, ShotSpotter claims it can detect suppressed gunfire as well as unsuppressed shots. Which bolsters the Hearing Protection Act. Anyway, I’ll give John Wayne Taylor the final word. “I have a shot spotter,” JWT said, pointing to either side of his head. “My ears.”