Mayor Whitmire wants to get rid of ShotSpotter

Fine by me.

Mayor John Whitmire

Mayor John Whitmire revealed plans to scrap the city’s $3.5 million ShotSpotter program, positioning Houston as the latest city government to abandon the controversial gunshot detection technology after a brief experiment.

“I think it is a gimmick,” Whitmire told the Chronicle on Wednesday. “I think it was cooked up by contractors and, personally, talking to officers, it doesn’t do any good.”

Houston’s current five-year contract with SoundThinking, the California-based company behind the crime-fighting tool, is set to expire in 2027. When asked if a reevaluation was imminent, the mayor said his mind was already made up on the program’s termination.

“We’re not going to have it,” Whitmire said. “Let me save you some time. I do not support it.”

A SoundThinking spokesperson called Whitmire’s comments “misinformed.” While the company respects the mayor’s decision to not extend the city’s contract beyond its third year, the technology has helped Houston first responders locate dozens of gunshot wound victims since its deployment, the spokesperson said.

“ShotSpotter’s effectiveness can be measured in the difference it makes for each life saved – and for these individuals, the tool was the difference between life and death, not a ‘gimmick,'” the spokesperson said.


Council Member Julian Ramirez cited the Chronicle’s investigation last year, which revealed that several years into its deployment, the tool has not significantly impacted gun crimes and has contributed to increased police response times within its program areas in Southeast and Northwest Houston.

The SoundThinking spokesperson told the Chronicle the company designed the system to decrease response times to gunfire reports.

“SoundThinking has never claimed to decrease overall response times regarding non-gunfire-related incidents,” the spokesperson said. “The ShotSpotter system is not a cure-all, but when used as a critical tool in a comprehensive gun crime response strategy, it can ensure that first responders get to the scene of an incident quickly and take appropriate action safely.”

New acting Police Chief Larry Satterwhite acknowledged the Chronicle’s findings. Since the department treats every ShotSpotter alert as a top-priority call warranting immediate response, he said, the program has sometimes diverted officers from other 911 calls, such as in-progress burglaries.

Meanwhile, the probability of a ShotSpotter alert leading to an incident report — less than 20% — is about half that of traditional 911 calls, the Chronicle previously reported.

“Lower-priority calls will have to sit and wait until our officers are able to get to that Priority 1 and verify that nothing is happening of urgency,” Satterwhite said. “We only have so many officers in a given area…It does affect response time.”

See here and here for some background. I’m not averse to trying technology to solve problems, but there has to be data showing that it works and justifies the cost. That’s not the case here. Maybe in more flush times we could extend the experiment, try tweaking the settings and whatnot, but we can’t afford that now. The money going to ShotSpotter can and should be used on things that will get a better return on their investment. That shouldn’t be hard to do. Make it happen and move on.

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2 Responses to Mayor Whitmire wants to get rid of ShotSpotter

  1. Meme says:

    People who live in areas where guns being shot are an everyday occurrence like them.

    What works, more police? I guess that is why Chicago has such a low crime rate.

    More prisons, Texas has tried that, but it got too expensive.

  2. J says:

    Shotspotter is no the only thing that Whitmire is getting rid of, it turn out that a majority of the Montrose TIRZ board members are serving expired terms and Whitmire is going to replace them with his people. I just got a notice that the board meeting is postponed until the new board is seated. I don’t see anything good coming from this.

    If you are a Whitmire sycophant thinking you are going to have a long ride with him, I would reconsider. We got rid of Kim Ogg and Shawn Thierry, and all of Tony Buzbee’s money couldn’t save his bid for office. I personally think Whitmire is in this only for his ego. He seems to love shoving people around.

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