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Durham, N.C., ShotSpotter Rollout Fights Against Delays

The gunshot detection company has encountered another delay in trying to install equipment in a shooting-prone part of the city. Officials say the rollout of the system is nearly complete.

A gun being pointed by an unidentifiable person.
(TNS) — The gunshot detection company ShotSpotter has delayed its rollout in Durham again as it struggles to install sensors in a shooting-prone area of the city.

The rollout, first set for September, has now been pushed back three times.

“We are still going through the process of installations,” Police Chief Patrice Andrews said one week after the latest scrapped start date, Nov. 15, had passed.

Gun violence spiked to a record high in Durham in 2020, but has declined the past two years, according to the most recent data reported by police.

As of Nov. 26, the Durham Police Department had recorded 700 shooting incidents, with 221 people shot, 37 of them fatally.


After years of debate, ShotSpotter passed the City Council by 5-2 vote in September, despite objections about excessive policing and questions over whether the technology actually works.

ShotSpotter referred The N&O to the Police Department when contacted about a new start date.

It’s now slotted for December.

“We have to be able to have a certain percentage of sensors deployed and we’re just, we’re almost there. Almost there, but not quite,” Andrews said.

Mayor Pro Tem Mark-Anthony Middleton, who has been advocating for the technology for years, said Thursday they were nearly finished securing permissions.

“We’re about 97 percent covered,” Middleton said. “We hit a bump in the road when the school board decided not to let us use schools, so we had to kind of pivot and find other locations.”

The Board of Education, citing surveillance concerns, voted unanimously in September not to take part in the yearlong pilot.

“Our schools are safe,” board member Natalie Beyer said at the meeting. “I am concerned that this technology doesn’t in fact make them safer.”

Middleton said it’s taken time to answer people’s questions and that each new spot affects the modeling.

“It’s not like sticking things on the wall and walking off. There’s a science to it,” he said.


ShotSpotter’s sensors are confined to 3 square miles in East and Southeast Durham where the city says a third of all gunshot injuries and deaths occur.

The company told The N&O it typically deploys 15 to 25 sensors per square mile. In Durham, 60 to 75 were initially planned.

The devices are light gray in color and fairly small, about 9 inches on either side and 4 inches thick, according to technical specifications obtained in a public records request.

They weigh just over 3 pounds and communicate on cell networks, but must be connected to electricity to do so.

When the devices are triggered, audio of the incident is sent to ShotSpotter’s “Incident Review Center,” where a person listens to confirm gunfire or explosions, then alerts Durham’s 911 dispatchers and police.

Local authorities get a dot on the map and the closest address, plus audio files and other data, according to the city’s contract.

The California company will be paid $197,500 for the first year, plus $28,000 for a program to integrate its technology with the 911 center.

©2022 Raleigh News & Observer, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.