Could ShotSpotter help Durham police catch more criminals as 84 percent of shootings this year go unsolved?

Crime Tracker

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — In Durham, 84 percent of the nearly 400 shooting incidents that have happened so far this year have gone unsolved and city leaders are grappling with what can be done to address the problem.

One possible short-term solution that city councilors have considered is implementing the gunshot detection technology, ShotSpotter.

The technology detects when shots are fired, the communications center is then alerted, and police officers are dispatched to the scene.

On August 6, 2020, Durham City Councilman Mark-Anthony Middleton presented an offer the company ShotSpotter had made that would allow the city to try out the technology for free for six months.

But the offer was sent back to administrative staff for further review and the council never voted on it.

Almost eleven months later, Councilman Mark-Anthony Middleton said Thursday that an offer is still on the table from the company, but that it has been amended and it’s not the same offer as before.

Is ShotSpotter something that could help Durham Police catch more suspects involved in shootings, as only 16 percent of the shooting incidents so far this year have been cleared?

Rocky Mount Police has used ShotSpotter technology for 10 years and Chief Robert Hassell told CBS 17 it’s helped them bring down crime.

“With ShotSpotter, it gives us the exact location, within 75 to a couple hundred feet,” Hassell said.

Hassell said sometimes police will get there quick enough to catch the suspect or suspects involved in the shooting that just occurred.

He said that’s what happened two weeks ago on June 18th when a shooting occurred in the 1200 block of Liberty Street in Rocky Mount.

Hassell said ShotSpotter alerted police about shots fired in the area.

Police were already on their way when someone called 911 and told them someone had been shot.

Rocky Mount Police were able to get to the scene in time to catch the suspect’s vehicle driving away.

Inside, the vehicle were four individuals, Jha’leel Burnette, Corey Williams, Mauricio Whitaker, and Rashon Daniel.

All four of them were arrested in connection to the shooting, and three of the individuals, Burnette, Williams, and Whitaker are all from Durham.

“We were able to arrest all four, and we seized of four weapons as well,” Hassell said.

Chief Hassell said that since 2018, Rocky Mount Police has responded to 2,200 shooting incidents.

He said that within three minutes of the shots fired in those calls, 32 percent of those incidents were also called in by citizens but in 68 of those incidents no citizen called 911 about the shooting. Chief Hassell said within the last year, ShotSpotter has helped Rocky Mount Police solve more than a dozen aggravated assaults, homicides, and shots fired.

CBS 17 asked Chief Hassell if Rocky Mount Police would have been able to solve all those cases, had it not been for ShotSpotter.

“I’m going to say yes to some of them, but I think ShotSpotter has helped to speed that process up a little,” Hassell said.

Durham city councilman Middleton said that as shootings are still happening regularly in Durham, he thinks it is still a good idea to at least try ShotSpotter and see if it might lead to more arrests.

“If we find that ShotSpotter doesn’t work for us, I’ll be the first to say that we take it down,” Middleton said. “I’m not personally vested in this, what I’m vested in is saving the lives of our young people.”

Middleton added that he would be open to waiting until the new police chief arrives to find out if they would be in support of this technology.

Some Durham City Councilors had expressed concerns in the past about ShotSpotter leading to over-policing.

CBS 17 asked Rocky Mount police how many times ShotSpotter sent them to a call and they found nothing, police said there was only one call they went to in the last six months that was unfounded.

So far this year there have been 392 shooting incidents in Durham, which is down from the 405 that had occurred this time last year, according to police data.

However, the number of people shot is just as high as so far this year 114 people have been shot.

The number of homicides has almost doubled this year as 22 people have been shot and killed compared to the 12 people who had been killed this time last year.

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