ShotSpotter gunshot detection technology will soon go live in Springfield, Ill., after the city council voted Tuesday to approve a three-year service agreement with the Newark, Ca.-based company.
(TNS) — ShotSpotter gunshot detection technology will soon go live in Springfield, Ill., after the city council voted Tuesday to approve a three-year service agreement with the Newark, Ca.-based company.
The 7-3 vote came after the company agreed to provide the gunshot detection service for $643,750, a significantly-reduced rate from the original $838,750 price tag.
Under the revised agreement, the city will pay $75,000 in the first year and $284,375 in both years two and three.
The backloaded deal gives the city wiggle room as it seeks to implement the long-planned technology while preparing for the possible hit the COVID-19 pandemic will have on the city budget.
"I appreciate ShotSpotter working with us," said Mayor Jim Langfelder. "They understand the significance of the economic impact that we're dealing with and they understand the importance of what they can bring to the table and saving lives."
The technology — currently in use in cities like Chicago, Peoria and Rockford — utilizes a series of acoustic sensors to detect and pinpoint the origin of gunfire within a 25 meter radius, providing real-time information to police officers responding on the ground.
The sensors were installed earlier this year throughout a 4.25-square mile section of Springfield's east side, where a disproportionate amount of the city's gun violence occurs.
Police Chief Kenny Winslow said the department is ready to "flip the switch" and activate the technology now that the council has approved it.
The technology has long been viewed as a critical feature in the Springfield Police Department's larger plan to reduce gun violence.
Its approval was far from a sure thing last week as some aldermen, fearing the oncoming budget crunch brought on by the pandemic, questioned whether it was an essential purchase.
This was further questioned when HSHS St. John's Hospital, which pledged $50,000 for each year of the agreement, and Memorial Health System, which pledged at least $50,000, pulled their funding commitments for this year, citing the financial strain brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
And on Tuesday, Springfield Police Benevolent & Protective Association, the union that represents the city's police officers, recommended that the purchase be put on hold.
In a letter to Langfelder and members of the council, union president Sgt. Grant Barksdale wrote that "a more cautious approach to law enforcement funding is more appropriate," noting that their members did not want to purchase to be a driver of "any reduction of manpower in the future."
"In short, if it is a good idea at this point, it will be a good idea later, when there should be more clarity to our current unknown financial circumstances," Barksdale said.
Even with the $195,000 cost reduction, Ward 1 Ald. Chuck Redpath, Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin and Ward 10 Ald. Ralph Hanauer voted no.
"In a flush year, if we didn't have the virus and didn't have the downturn that we've got right now, I'd be a yes vote for this," Hanauer said. "But it just scares me to death what's going to happen. And it may take a couple years for us to get out of this."
However, the changes were enough to garner a majority. Ward 9 Ald. Jim Donelan, who had been on the fence, said he was convinced after having conversations about the technology with the mayors of Peoria and Rockford.
"Both of them said that it is an expensive product," Donelan said. "And both of them said that they are very pleased with the results."
Donelan said that, at least this year, the $75,000 can be made up by simply not filling a vacancy somewhere in city government.
"Surely somewhere in the corporate fund citywide, that there is going to be a vacancy somewhere," Donelan said. "My logic is ... don't fill the vacancy. "
While the cost remains hefty in years two and three, aldermen said there's hope that the hospitals will recommit themselves once their financial situations become more clear.
"It's a win-win, not only for the residents of the city of Springfield, but it's also a win-win for law enforcement as well as the judicial system that will ultimately have to adjudicate these arrests," said Ward 3 Ald. Doris Turner. "So I appreciate the fact that we were able to negotiate the price downward and I do appreciate the support that it appears that we're going to have for this new technology tonight."
©2020 The State Journal-Register, Springfield, Ill. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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