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Published: 2022-09-12 04:58:00
Updated: 2022-09-12 10:06:21
Posted September 12, 2022 4:58 a.m. EDT
Updated September 12, 2022 10:06 a.m. EDT
By Keenan Willard, WRAL eastern North Carolina reporter
— The Durham Police Department will answer the public’s questions about new technology aimed at addressing gun violence in the coming weeks.
In September and October, the City of Durham will hold a series of community meetings so stakeholders can share their thoughts on ShotSpotter’s arrival in Durham, set for November.
ShotSpotter is a technology that uses sensors to detect gunshots, alerting police without the need for 911 calls. Unlike other forms of police surveillance, ShotSpotter only uses audio to detect gunshots.
A public input meeting scheduled for Sept. 12 was canceled. Other meetings will be held over the next month, including at:
A one-year pilot program for ShotSpotter is set to launch in November in three square miles of east and southeast Durham, including parts of Bowen Street, North Carolina Highway 55 and North Alston Boulevard. The area for the pilot program was selected based on known incidents of gunfire between 2019 and 2021.
In a statement, Durham leaders said, “though it is only 2.7 percent of the city’s land mass, the coverage area had the highest concentration of gunfire events, including 33.9 percent of all incidents in which a person was shot.”
Earlier this year, Durham released a new map that shows where a controversial new police tool will be placed.
WRAL News has reported extensively on the debate over bringing the program to Durham. Proponents say ShotSpotter will speed up response times to shootings and could help victims get lifesaving medical care in time. However, some Durham residents have privacy concerns surrounding the idea of the police constantly listening in on their community.
The City of Durham said an independent audit shows ShotSpotter has a 97% aggregate accuracy rate.
“[From 2019 to 2021] across all clients, our audit confirmed that based on client reports, ShotSpotter correctly detected, classified, and published gunfire with 97.69% accuracy, which is slightly higher than the 2019 and 2020 accuracy rate of 97.59%,” the audit said.
Durham residents believe there could be a net benefit to the technology.
“I really think it’s a great thing for the community,” said Picasso Keaton, who manages a family owned business in an area of Durham called Hayti, just south of North Carolina Highway 147. Hayti is a historically-Black area of Durham that was victim of racist rezoning laws in the 1960s.
Keaton believes the ShotSpotter could have a tangible impact on the community’s gun violence problem.
“I really think it can help, help our community, and help us come back together,” he said.
Charlitta Burrus lives on the east side of the technology’s coverage area.
“In my area there is gunshots frequently,” Burrus said. “I don’t really have a problem with it coming to our area.”
She’s accepting of the program, but doesn’t think addressing gun violence should stop there.
“We’ve got to continue to communicate and work together. 911, police department, sheriff’s department. Everyone needs to be in the loop on what exactly is going on,” Burrus said.
“If they could put it all around the city, periodically move the ShotSpotter technology from one neighborhood to another, and possibly cover all of Durham,” she added, “Because right now, Durham is not exempt nowhere from gunshots and gunfire.”
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