Detroit City Council pushes back controversial ShotSpotter expansion vote

A controversial technology that would expand the scope of surveillance at the Detroit Police Department's disposal was expected to get a vote in the city council Tuesday before members pushed the measure back to next week.

The bill would allocate an additional $7 million to widening where ShotSpotter is used in Detroit. Currently the technology is used in districts in the western and eastern sides of city. If the money is approved, it would broaden where the equipment could be used.

Some 40 people spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting, with the majority voicing opposition to the proposal. While some worried the technology would pick up the wrong kind of sounds and send police to the wrong neighborhoods, others argued the money could be better spent on health care or housing.

The funds are from the federal government's Covid relief package that was past in 2021. All councilmembers voted to push back the proposal to next Tuesday.

What is ShotSpotter?

ShotSpotter detects sounds of gunfire and pinpoints where it came from, informing Detroit police that can then respond.

Mayor Mike Duggan said had ShotSpotter been in use when a man went on a random killing spree in the city late August, police would have been able to catch the suspect faster.

"Had the Detroit police had a Shotspotter notice at 4:45 on a Sunday morning - a mile and a half from the 12th Precinct, police officers would have been on that site immediately at a time where the police had an advantage," Duggan said at the time.

Expanding ShotSpotter's presence also has the support of some residents who have been harmed by gun violence. 

RELATED: Debate rages over ShotSpotter technology in Detroit

Detroit police say the technology works, with 27% fewer gun crimes in areas that use ShotSpotter.

But critics see the technology as a poor use of money. The millions of dollars could be better spent, Attorney Phil Mayor with the ACLU says, by "attacking the root causes and doing things like keeping people in their homes."

"(It) is a way more effective use of money than follow cities like Chicago that have spent tens of millions of dollars on Shotspotter technology and their own inspector general conclude it yields no results."

MORE: Detroit teen charged with random shooting spree that killed three

A policy analyst who previously spoke with FOX 2 said that ShotSpotter had only led to 21 arrests out of more than 1,300 police runs over the past 12 months. An attorney with the Detroit Justice Center believes the police department's intentions are good but that it won't aid in lessening crime.

"This has been a pattern with the City of Detroit," said Eric Williams. "I think it is because they want to show that they are doing something and people like technology. But this is a technology that has been shown, time and time again, and city after city, to be an expensive boondoggle."