IMPD, FOP explain stance on gunshot detection technology and when to purchase it

Crime in Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Technology to detect gunfire in real-time is gaining city-wide attention. Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police President Rick Snyder began calling for the technology more than a year ago. But, IMPD leadership said right now is not the time to add this expensive technology – more research and conversations are needed.

IMPD said they began weighing the addition of gun detection technology in 2018.

“It’s a sensor and they require three square miles,” Dep. Chief Kendale Adams explained. “So then you’re looking at $10,000 per sensor and then $65,000 licensing fee. So, we don’t own the equipment. We have to lease it. Plus, there are additional challenges. We’re putting those sensors in public spaces, right? Getting a building that would allow us to put a sensor on their building.”

When Republican councilors called for additional funding for IMPD for this technology as part of a $3.3 million fiscal package, Adams and IMPD Chief Randal Taylor said now is not the time to request funding for this technology.

“When you integrate that with, for example, surveillance cameras, LPRs (license plate readers) as you mentioned when you integrate ShotSpotter into that, it can work,” Adams said. “It can work. But, if you don’t integrate that well into your existing technology environment, then it becomes, it can become a burden to police.”

Adams said the department’s had conversations with Chicago which implemented the ShotSpotter technology. He pointed to a study of ShotSpotter-initiated police runs from July 2019 to April 2021 which showed 86% of ShotSpotter alerts did not result in a case being filed by police.

“In essence, it’s creating more runs for officers to have to now go investigate,” Adams said. “If there’s nothing there, then again it’s decreasing their ability to focus on crime.”

Snyder points to the company ShotSpotter’s website which reports a 97% accuracy rate.

IMPD confirms at least one company offered months of free trials for Indy.

“To see and test it and see how it works for us,” Snyder said. “The byproduct of that testing period is we could be solving crimes and preventing deaths today. So we’re going to say no to that?”

But, Adams said the city must have the resources to support the technology after the trial.

“Plus, there are additional challenges,” Adams said. “We’re putting those sensors in public spaces, right? Getting a building that would allow us to put a sensor on their building. So, there were a number of challenges in 2018 that we identified that made it not the best time to implement something like a ShotSpotter.”

Additionally, Adams described Indy’s crime as mobile.

“Our crime is very mobile and that means it might be over on the east side today, it’s on the north side, so we need to have the ability to move very quickly, and ShotSpotter doesn’t allow us to do that,” Adams said. “Once it’s put in place, it’s there. Once this area is not as harmed, as I like to say, how do we get all of that equipment, which isn’t ours, it’s owned by the company, how do we get that equipment over here to this next area? So those are some of the challenges that shot spotter brings. However, again, it is a continuing conversation.”

Our own map of homicides shows the crimes are concentrated in certain areas. Snyder said years of data shows where the gunshot detection system should go.

“Why can I tell you in one council district where the vast majority of our homicides are occurring in this city,” Snyder said. “I don’t know, would that be a decent place to put the technology?”

Adams said another reason the city wants to investigate gunshot detection software before requesting funding is that they do not want to over police certain neighborhoods.

“Because, you’re going to stop anybody who’s out there because you just had a shots fired, it’s just gone off, so officers are racing to the area,” Adams said.

But, Snyder said there are neighborhoods that deal with a disproportionate amount of crime.

“It says that we’re going to send law enforcement officers into specific neighborhoods at a disproportionate rate, no kidding,” Snyder said. “It’s because violence is occurring at a disproportionate rate in those neighborhoods. If the police department believes that, then reallocate all of your manpower through the city. Make sure that every square mile of the city has the exact same police coverage throughout the entire city.”

IMPD said they already use license plate reader technology and believe it is successful.

“We can upload sometimes what we refer to as a hot list,” Adams explained. “So if there’s a car that we’ve got that may be involved in a shooting, we can load that license into the system and all of those plates that the LPR is running, it will cross-reference. If it hits on that plate, then it will send an email to the detective and say, ‘hey, this car was last seen here, traveling at this time and give it a picture.'”

Snyder said the FOP is calling for a package of technology to include gunshot detection, license plate readers and public safety cameras. Adams said if these systems work in tandem, they could be effective.

“Before we would implement a technology like ShotSpotter, we just need to have further conversations about one, does it make sense for our community, does it make sense for what we’re dealing with which is gun violence and it certainly has a place, but are there emerging technologies that are coming behind that that make it more applicable to Indianapolis,” Adams explained.

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