CHICAGO – Community groups on Thursday urged the city of Chicago to end its use of the ShotSpotter gunshot detection system when the contract expires next month.
Several city-wide grassroots organizations, Little Village community activists and the family of Adam Toledo gathered in the alleyway where police fatally shot the 13-year-old in protest of the ShotSpotter technology. The group believes the system is not as accurate as technology and law enforcement claim it to be.
On the morning of March 29, Chicago police officer Eric Stillman shot Toledo once in the chest in the alley of the 2300 block of South Spaulding. Toledo was shot after he and another man, 21-year-old Ruben Roman, allegedly ran away from police who were responding to the area for a ShotSpotter report of gunfire.
Police later charged 21-year-old Ruben Roman as the man who was with Toledo and fired his gun at a passing car which prompted the CPD response.
Video of the fatal shooting from the officer’s bodycam was released a month later by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA). Reaction to the video led to protests, both small and massive in stature. The Toledo family is also suing the city.
Activists said citizens of Chicago feel ShotSpotter technology unfairly targets Brown and Black people.
In response, ShotSpotter issued a statement that said, in part, “All residents who live in communities experiencing persistent gunfire deserve a rapid police response, which gunshot detection enables regardless of race or geographic location. Because cities lack sufficient funds to cover an entire city with gunshot detection technology, they deploy sensors in neighborhoods suffering the highest levels of gun violence.”
One man, who declined to give his name to WGN, said, “If it did work, it still wouldn’t be safe. It doesn’t matter how well they work. When a ShotSpotter goes off, don’t we have a Second Amendment right? Isn’t that in the constitution? Not for Brown people, right?”
In response, ShotSpotter told WGN News, “Anytime anyone is shot and killed, it’s a tragedy. In the case of Adam Toledo, ShotSpotter had accurately alerted Chicago Police that multiple gunshots were fired in the vicinity and thus community members were in grave danger.”
The group walked to Alderman Mike Rodriguez’s (22nd Ward) office, demanding that he support their efforts. In response, Rodriguez told WGN, “I have concerns about the accuracy of the ShotSpotter and given their record, I can’t support renewing the contract if the vast majority of cases are not ending in reports or action…taking away critical resources that can be better spent on programs that are proven effective.”
ShotSpotter’s response went on to say, “ShotSpotter operates at a 97% aggregate accuracy rate for real-time detections across all customers. This figure is derived directly from police department reports and this accuracy rate was confirmed by Edgeworth Analytics, an independent data science firm that audited ShotSpotter’s accuracy.”
WGN reached out to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who has been a vocal supporter of the ShotSpotter technology in the past. The mayor’s office did not immediately return our request for comment.