The Sacramento City Council this week approved a $2.5 million five-year extension of ShotSpotter gunshot detection technology, which will allow the Sacramento Police Department to continue detecting gunshots at three undisclosed locations through 2025.

Police officials say the technology is important to its goal of reducing gun violence. Opponents say the devices also increase the frequency of police interactions, which they say increases the risk for Black residents of becoming the victim of police brutality or harassment.

While council members held Tuesday’s meeting virtually from their homes due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Black Lives Matter activists held a protest outside City Hall, urging council members to reject the item and to “defund the police.”

The funding will come at least partly from the city’s Measure U sales tax revenue in the budget that starts July 1, according to city budget documents.

The city first placed a ShotSpotter in north Sacramento in 2015 and then, citing its success, added one to south Sacramento in 2017 and east Sacramento in 2018, a city staff report said. From the time they were installed through February 2020, police have received 3,638 activations, which have led to 1,135 arrests, and the seizure of 450 guns. The devices’ exact locations are kept secret.

A city staff report noted that ShotSpotter can be much more effective at detecting gunfire than reliance on citizen calls.

“The national average for citizens in urban areas to call the police when they hear gunshots is 12 percent,” the staff report said. “Additionally, the time delay between the gunshots being fired, the 911 call, and officers being dispatched to the location, may be several minutes. The likelihood of locating suspects, witnesses, and evidence is greatly diminished the longer the response time.”

The systems, which have been widely used by police departments across the country for several years, have been the subject of increased scrutiny lately.

Toronto ditched plans last year to start using ShotSpotter after elected officials raised privacy concerns that the microphones could pick up residents’ conversations.

The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office last year said they would stop using ShotSpotter in March due to a budget crunch.

The city has the ability to terminate the ShotSpotter contract at any time with 30 days’ notice.

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