How is Cleveland using technology to fight against violent crime?

City will use $3 million of American Relief Plan money to expand ShotSpotter pilot program
Published: Oct. 13, 2022 at 12:54 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - It’s high tech meets high crime.

The city of Cleveland is investing in technology that can hear gunfire and send police to the scene before anyone can even make a 911 call.

“There are some bad folks running our streets,” said Cleveland councilman Mike Polensek, the chair of the safety committee. “They are committed to violence in our neighborhoods. The majority of crime is being perpetrated in this city are being carried out by the same folks.”

The Cleveland Division of Police’s Fourth District has used ShotSpotter in a three-mile area and it’s reduced response by two minutes.

The new money will expand it to 13 square miles around the city.

It also avoids another problem: People not calling the police, not giving law enforcement the opportunity to take violent offenders off the street.

Councilman Kevin Conwell remembers one of the estimated 2,454 shootings from January of 2020 to this June.

“Nobody on that street called the police, but ShotSpotter doesn’t have to worry about snitching because it’s a machine,” Conwell, who represents Ward 9, said. “If it’s efficient, then it will call the police and we can get there and we can try to do prevention before the second time.”

Council allocated $2.75 million of American Rescue Plan money to expand the program.

“If we could get it cheaper, I think that we should have that too throughout the whole city of Cleveland,” Ward 1 Councilman Joe Jones said.

Councilmembers admit this is not a cure all, only part of the solution to solving the crime problem in the city.

“We need to stand together and not just say $2.5 million dollars for ShotSpotter is the end,” Councilman Richard Starr, of Ward 5, said. “We need boots on the ground. Give me actual resources.”

Polensek said ShotSpotter needs cameras at the scenes to capture images as the city looks for ways to not just react to crime but to try to prevent it.

“We all know we need the wraparound services, we need a better school system, we need better social services in this city,” Polensek said.