City of Birmingham continues to expand ShotSpotter

Is shotspotter worth the cost?

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - We're continuing to look at the effectiveness of ShotSpotter in Birmingham. Since we started asking about it a year ago, the city has expanded the system.

Tuesday, city council signed off on over $150,000 to expand the system that uses sensors to detect when shots are fired. Right now the city has three coverage zones on the west side, east side, and east Kingston areas.

"The increase in cost is not incremental to what's being expanded. In other words, we are getting more of equipment of resources from the ShotSpotter expansion than we have gotten before," Hunter Williams, city councilor and chairman of the public safety committee said.

Over the past year, we've sent multiple records requests to the city asking for proof that it works. Birmingham Police did show us some of what we're asking to take a look at but so far the department hasn't shown us numbers that would show a reduction in gun-related criminal activity due to the technology only saying it works which we've heard year after year.

"It is something that is very hard to quantify when you are talking about does the program work as a whole? Is it working as a whole?" Williams said.

We're told the city spends about $90 million on BPD's budget. Williams says the ShotSpotter program costs under half a million dollars.

"When you are talking about what we spend on our entire public safety budget, it is a very small amount and I think that this administration all 10 of us, the public safety committee agrees that it is well worth the half million dollars approximately that we're spending on it," Williams said.

City council also voted to spend over $450,000 to renew ShotSpotter's subscription services. Monday, we sent another records request. We're still waiting on the city to formally respond to our previous requests. We'll keep pressing for answers.

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