Chicago will stop using its gunshot detection system... after the Democratic Convention

Mayor Brandon Johnson announced that the city would not renew its contract with ShotSpotter, a tool that detects gunshots in the city and alerts police.

Chicago will stop using the gunshot detection system. Mayor Brandon Johnson announced this Tuesday that they would not renew the contract with ShotSpotter, a tool that detects gunshots in the city and alerts the Police.

The Democratic mayor assured in the press release that the tool, used by 150 cities in the United States, will be replaced by other "more effective" resources and tactics, and that his intention is to maintain the downward trend in crime levels. :

The City of Chicago will not renew its contract with SoundThinking, which expires on February 16, 2024, and will phase out use of ShotSpotter technology on September 22, 2024. ... Looking ahead, the City of Chicago will deploy its resources on the most effective, proven strategies and tactics to accelerate the current downward trend in violent crime. This work, done in consultation with the community, violence prevention organizations, and law enforcement, provides a path to a better, stronger, safer Chicago for all.

ShotSpotter expires after Democratic National Convention in Chicago

Specifically, the contract that Chicago made with SoundThinking, the company that owns ShotSpotter, will expire this Friday and the tool will stop being used at the end of September, just when the Democratic National Committee Convention ends.

A period of time that, as detailed by the company in a press release collected by ABC7 Chicago , is ineffective in "providing the best possible data and analysis to the residents of the city of Chicago":

ShotSpotter has been deployed in the city of Chicago for 7 years and has been aware of the pending contract expiration on February 16, 2024. Throughout much of 2023, SoundThinking attempted to contact the city of Chicago regarding an expansion of the ShotSpotter service. As recently as December 2023, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was submitted to the city for a 12-month extension. ... Contrary to those discussions and without consulting with SoundThinking, on February 12, 2024, Mayor Johnson announced a decommissioning plan, which involved an extension of ShotSpotter until September 22, 2024, one month after the Democratic National Convention in Chicago .

We believe that the shared goal of an extension period should provide the best possible data and analysis to the residents of the city of Chicago through greater transparency and reporting standards. The way to guarantee this is through a minimum extension of 12 months and modifications to the city's current data and information protocols. SoundThinking is eager to continue its collaboration with the city of Chicago to help address the tragic plague of gun violence.

Police satisfied with the operation of ShotSpotter

The decision was announced the same day it was announced that 39 shots had been recorded over that weekend. However, the AP assured, it represented a decrease of 30% compared to the same period in 2023, when the total number of shots was 56.

This decrease in crime, said former Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson to ABC7Chicago, could be partly due to the use of ShotSpotter:

I know it is effective. When we launched it in Englewood and in the 11th district on the west side, in three months gun violence decreased in Englewood between 46% and 47% ... I think there are about 80% of calls for shots fired , and in these tough neighborhoods where people don't call 911, ShotSpotter filled that spot.

Criticism against Johnson in Chicago

Criticism against Johnson for his decision to end this tool was immediate. Local Representative Silvana Tabares charged against Johnson and pointed to disastrous management of city funds, which she says will end up in the wrong hands. "The only ones who are against ShotSpotter are the organizers. The community organizers who want to use the money that saves brown and black lives in their own pockets," Tabares said at a press conference this week.

The latest polls do not support Johnson either. According to data from the end of January 2024, only about 20% of respondents that month, in a poll funded by school choice advocates, said they approve of the way Chicago's mayor is doing his job. Faced with this, 70% rated his performance as average or poor. Only 7% of respondents called Johnson's performance as mayor "excellent," and another 14% called it "good." The remaining 69% rated Johnson's performance as "fair" (27%) or "poor" (43%) or said they "didn't know" (10%).