Baltimore won't buy gunshot detection system

Baltimore backs off purchasing gunshot detection system

Baltimore officials have backed off a decision to purchase a gunshot detection system, saying the cost to use the technology would take away from other crime-fighting efforts.

Kevin Harris, a spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, confirmed that the city had reversed a decision to use a grant to buy the ShotSpotter system, which uses receivers installed in communities to detect the sound of gunfire. The technology uses sensors mounted on street lamps and other objects to help police pinpoint where guns are fired and respond to shootings.

Cities across the nation, including Pittsburgh, Denver and Washington, use similar systems.

"After evaluating the resource allocation need for the installation, training and monitoring of such an extensive program, it was determined that the crime fight would be adversely impacted by proceeding with the purchase," Harris said.

Officials continue to evaluate using a detection program, Harris said, adding that implementing such technology is "continuously weighed against the Baltimore Police Department's ability to proactively engage in the crime fight."

The city announced last February that police were planning to install the system in East and West Baltimore using a $305,000 state grant. Because the city did not proceed with the purchase, Harris said, the state never sent the money.

Police have considered installing the sensors several times in recent years. In 2008, the city teamed with the Johns Hopkins University to test the technology after the school installed a donated gunshot detection system near the Homewood campus. The city decided not to buy the technology then, partly due to the cost.

A ShotSpotter system helped police in Pittsburgh locate two gunshot victims this week, but the technology failed to lead police to a nearby location about two weeks earlier when a man was fatally shot, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

ywenger@baltsun.com

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