LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Little Rock’s Board of Directors voted Tuesday to let police keep using a tool that claims to curb shootings but is raising concerns.
ShotSpotters first appeared in the city in December 2018. The devices actively listen for gunshots and immediately dispatch police.
According to ShotSpotter, officers are called within a minute of gunshots being heard and the devices can help “locate more witnesses” and “identify shooters faster.”
In 2018, the Board of Directors unanimously voted for a resolution that used grants to install and run ShotSpotters for two years.
Tuesday’s vote extends the contract with ShotSpotter for two more years at a cost of $287,393.
Half of that cost will be covered by grants, the rest is up to the city.
In a recent investigation, we found the devices aren’t always translating to more arrests.
During Tuesday’s meeting, our reporting became a talking point.
“That is information that has never been brought to us before, and your article was very informative to me,” said B.J. Wyrick, who represents Ward 7. “We may need to do some damage control.”
Wyrick voted for the ShotSpotter resolution, but told us after the meeting that her vote came with conditions.
Wyrick referred back to our investigation. We found, based on records Little Rock Police sent us, ShotSpotters picked up 2,026 suspected shootings. Of those, police made 8 arrests at the scene, and were only able to list a suspect in their initial report 7 other times.
That equals a less than 1 percent chance of a ShotSpotter leading to a suspect.
“I did vote for it again, but I do want to know what we’re getting out of it,” Wyrick added. “I just want the details.”
One of the dissenting votes was cast by Ken Richardson, who represents Ward 3.
“I’m sad because we haven’t been provided or shown anything about its effectiveness,” Richardson said. “I’m disappointed the Chief or one of the Assistant Chiefs wasn’t here.”
Richardson said he also wants proof that the devices are working and plans to keep pushing police for answers.
“What’s the rate of success? What are we getting out of it?” Richardson questioned.
We asked Little Rock Police for records showing ShotSpotter’s success rates and were told the department doesn’t track that.