On Your Side Investigation: Birmingham PD shows us ShotSpotter numbers

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - After sending multiple requests over the past two months to the city of Birmingham and police, we are finally getting a look at how many times ShotSpotter is being activated in the city's three coverage zones.

This week, we got numbers from 2014 to 2107 broken down from singe to multiple gunshots to possible gunfire on the city's westside, east side and east Kingston area.

The most multiple gunshot activations come from the west side. Over 2,100 multiple gun shots in 2014. Those numbers shot up to over 2,700 in 2015 and even more to a little over 2,800 shots in 2016. So far in 2017, the numbers show nearly 1,700 ShotSpotter activations.

From 2014 to 2015, single gun shots went up from over 3,500 to over 4,300, but dropped in 2016 to a little over 1,700 in 2016. So far this year, 569 single gun shots activated ShotSpotter on the west side.

Here's a look at the east side numbers:

2014
Single gunshot: 1143
Multiple gunshots: 520
Possible gunfire: 243
 
2015
Single gunshot:1342
Multiple gunshots: 775
Possible gunfire: 343
 
2016
Single gunshot: 457
Multiple gunshots:789
Possible gunfire: 43
 
So far in 2017
Single gunshot: 243
Multiple gunshots: 541
Possible gunfire: 57
 
Here are the ShotSpotter results from East Kingston:
 
2014
Single gunshot: 3828
Multiple gunshots: 1573
Possible gunfire: 773
 
2015
Single gunshot:1887
Multiple gunshots: 983
Possible gunfire:376
 
2016
Single gunshot: 144
Multiple gunshots: 391
Possible gunfire: 28
 
So far in 2017
Single gunshot:162
Multiple gunshots: 440
Possible gunfire: 51

"When you are talking about a crime fighting, you really want to get ahead and be ahead of the criminal and really be proactive. rather than reactive. Part of this system helps us be proactive. It doesn't prevent a crime from happening. It doesn't solve cases. But it can definitely get the ball rolling as it relates to responding to the scene," Lt. Sean Edwards with Birmingham Police said.

Birmingham police tell us these numbers may not paint the entire picture of whether or not the system is working. While arrests have been made as a result of ShotSpotter alerts, BPD says you have to determine the system's success on a case-by-case basis.

We asked Edwards if the system is worth the over a million dollars spent on it last year to expand ShotSpotter and renew the contract?
 
"When it comes to public safety and when it comes to law enforcement and the safety of our citizens, I think the money well worth it," Edwards said.
 
One part of our open records request we're still waiting for is contracts between the city and ShotSpotter and any documents that show how effective ShotSpotter is in reducing gun-related criminal activity since installing the equipment.
 
We're told Mayor-Elect Randall Woodfin will review ShotSpotter and other tools BPD uses to see if they're worth the money. We'll keep asking questions about Shot Spotter  and will let you know what we find out.
 
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