Mayor, SPD respond to parish commissioner's push for ShotSpotter crime-fighting tool

High-tech ears, eyes on crime: Why some say ShotSpotter is a bad fit for Shreveport

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - "We can't continue to try and fight a 2018 crime problem with a 1998 mentality."

That's the opinion of a Caddo commissioner who is pushing for Shreveport to use a high-tech, crime-fighting tool.

"It's very unfortunate that we don't seem to have leadership on this issue. It's kind of hard to get our leadership to, one, own this issue and come up with a comprehensive plan," District 3's Steven Jackson said.

He's critical of Shreveport's mayor and police chief for what he says is a failure to appropriately address the rising crime in their city.

Jackson has been pushing for the city to add ShotSpotter technology to the areas hardest hit by crime.

ShotSpotter uses sensors placed on elevated surfaces to detect gunfire and immediately alert police even before anyone picks up the phone to call 911.

Shreveport Mayor Ollie Tyler says she is familiar with but not sold on the technology,

"I have actually looked at what it does around the country, and there are different reviews."

However, she's letting leaders of the city's Police Department take the lead on whether ShotSpotter is a good fit for Shreveport.

"We are inundated daily with different products," Deputy Chief Bill Goodin says. "And it's really incumbent upon us that we vet those and that we look at each one individually to make an assessment and how they might be able to assist us in our crime-fighting efforts."

That's exactly what happened when the city first was introduced to ShotSpotter in August 2010, Goodin says.

The Police Department conducted a feasibility study to determine whether it would be a good fit. The nine-page report looked at everything from exactly how the system works to a needs survey and  operating costs.

The final recommendation admits the system is functional and has worked in some cities.

But it concludes: "Based on the cost of the system and the low index of impact on citizens, implementation of the program is not recommended at this time."

Goodin adds: "One of the challenges is that it's what we call reactive in nature. In other words, by the time ShotSpotter finds the shot and reports it to us and that bullet is done whatever damage it's going to do."

More needs to be done to take guns away from convicted felons, he said.

ShotSpotter is used in more than 90 cities throughout the country. Some have reported issues over the years.

A Miami New Times report from 2012 says ShotSpotter sent county cops to 1,000 suspected shootings but only 50 turned out to be real. The department said ShotSpotter's success in arresting suspects was "minimal" then abandoned the system in 2013.

Another issue surfaced when Shreveport Police Department and ShotSpotter representatives met again a few weeks ago.

"We have got to make those determinations based on return on investment. It was about $65,000 per square mile, and that's high," Goodin says.

Jackson disagrees. "I don't think that we can put a price tag on someone's life. I don't think we can put a price tag on public safety."

He proposes that the money for the system come from the parish's general fund or reserve trust fund in addition to possible partnerships with the private sector.

Meantime, Tyler says Shreveport police are being proactive with other crime-fighting tools and building better relationships with people face to face.

"We're not sitting back holding our hands; we're working every day. They are cracking down on a lot of the crime, and their presence is making a big difference."

Jackson believes there needs to be more of a presence. "I think the chief, I think the mayor, all those individuals need to do a better job of, one, owning this problem, two, do more to actually get out in the community."

Tyler responded: "Seeing more of me at a crime scene, I don't know how that's going to prevent crime."

She also notes that she's in the community all the time, attending events night and day. "I can only do some much as an individual."

Tyler did want to stress the tireless work Shreveport police officers put in on a daily basis.

But when it comes to the city and the Police Department, you won't be spotting ShotSpotter anytime soon.

"We just don't feel like it's a good fit, not to denigrate their product or cast aspersions on it," Goodin says. "But at this point, it's not a good fit for our city, we feel like."

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