ShotSpotter in Durham, NC: Service or Burden? A Community Sentiment Evaluation

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2023-12

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Abstract

ShotSpotter is a gunshot detection technology that uses audio sensors to locate and notify local police departments of gunfire. In 2023, the Durham Police Department (DPD) conducted a year-long pilot of ShotSpotter. Conversations with 30 residents of ShotSpotter’s three-square mile pilot area revealed nuanced opinions on the role of police officers, both generally and within their role as responders to ShotSpotter alerts. In the context of ShotSpotter specifically, conversations surrounded the ethics of technology and corporate actors in policing, as well as the lack of community engagement in the decision to pilot. Less frequently did these conversations reveal any observed impact on gun crime or police activity after ShotSpotter was implemented. Not one participant believed that ShotSpotter could help reduce gun crime. However, the participants who did report seeing changes in policing since ShotSpotter described those changes in a positive light. Opposition to ShotSpotter was rooted primarily in preconceived mistrust rather than direct experiences. This mistrust was directed toward City Council, ShotSpotter as a corporation, policing as an institution, and concerns about surveillance and storing personal sensitive information. City Council should consider the experiences and perceptions of the citizens most affected by gun violence when deciding how to proceed with ShotSpotter. Meaningful engagement and representation of these community voices is critical in efforts to promote institutional trust, community-police relations, and reductions in violent crime.

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Kelly, Pilar (2023). ShotSpotter in Durham, NC: Service or Burden? A Community Sentiment Evaluation. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/30402.


Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.