PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A program that would use gunshot detection technology to help police pinpoint shootings in the city has received approval from a community oversight group.

Other cities with ShotSpotter, like Atlanta, show that ShotSpotter costs approximately $56,000 per arrest.

Communities of color are worried about where these gunshot detectors would be placed and that it could lead to unnecessary hostile situations of stop and frisks in marginalized communities.  

When the sound of gunshots ring out, ShotSpotter technology claims it can alert officers where to go immediately by putting microphones on light poles.

“The most effective way is finding these serial trigger pullers and quarantining them from society or discourage their behavior before they shoot again. And that’s how you drive down the gun violence,” Ron Teachman of ShotSpotter explained.

According to Thursday night’s meeting, Portland police’s community oversight group is ready to recommend this tech to the mayor. However, concerned citizens still take issue with this technology being used in marginalized communities.

“If you know, ShotSpotter alert goes off and then a police person thinks that they’re going into a neighborhood where gunshots have been fired, then they’re going in guns blazing,” Freedom to Thrive organizer Je Amaechi said.

They point to other major cities like Chicago, where ShotSpotter has been in use for years.
The City of Chicago Office of Inspector General’s found that ShotSpotter alerts rarely lead to evidence of gun-related crime and that presence of the technology changes police behavior — saying 9 out of 10 times police got a ShotSpotter alert, they didn’t find any evidence of a shooting.

The same inspector general’s report found thousands of stop-and-frisks that were prompted by ShotSpotter alerts, and that the majority of these police stops turned up nothing.

“We don’t want people to be subjected to gun violence. We want it to stop by any means, but we need to be thinking critically about what it is that actually stops gun violence instead of putting on band-aids that might actually end up exacerbating the issue overall,” Amaechi stated.

As a local organizer for alternative community safety, Amaechi says the city’s millions of dollars would be better spent on beautification of neighborhoods, housing, and positive childhood programs, than on ShotSpotter surveillance.

The city council and mayor, Amaechi says, need to think about what kind of trade-offs Portland would be making if ShotSpotter is implemented in Portland.