By Karen Morfitt

DENVER (CBS4)– Denver Police started zeroing in on shorts fired around the city using ShotSpotter technology more than six years ago.

(credit: CBS)

“It gives a coordinate where we are likely to find evidence and I would say the majority of the time we find it exactly where it is supposed to be,” Denver Police Division Chief Ron Thomas said.

Thomas helped secure the Denver City Council’s approval of its use through 2026, extending a contract with the company for those five years, for nearly $5 million.

“We found is that 80% to 90% of the time a ShotSpotter alert even where evidence is found there isn’t a corresponding 911 call,” Thomas said, “I think one of the reasons why people don’t call the police is one I think there may be some fear of retaliation and two it may just be normalized or they may even have the belief that the police don’t really care. I think that when they see police show up, it shows Denver police do care.”

According to Denver police, they have had more than 11,000 ShotSpotter alerts since 2018. In nearly 2,000 of those incidents, they found shell casings connected to other crimes, made 337 arrests and recovered 375 guns.

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“The reason why we keep reapplying, why we keep negotiating, is because we believe in this technology,” Thomas said.

That’s despite longstanding concerns about its use, largely in minority neighborhoods. Just one point behind a national campaign by the police reform group “Campaign Zero” to cancel ShotSpotter.

They also argue there’s been no known significant impact on violent crime and believe it’s wasting taxpayer money.

Thomas says Denver police use data to determine the location of their devices and overall believes there’s value in its continued use.

“I just don’t think you can put a price on being able to save lives,” he said.

CBS4 reached out to Campaign Zero for a comment about the cancel ShotSpotter campaign. They did not have anyone available for an interview ahead of the deadline.

(credit: CBS)

As for the ShotSpotter company, a spokesperson sent a statement that reads, in part, This is simply a rehash of debunked studies and false claims about ShotSpotter. Campaign Zero is not presenting any new research or information, and this effort only serves to undermine the critical work ShotSpotter is doing to save lives by combatting the gun violence epidemic.

By itself, ShotSpotter is not a cure-all, but studies have shown it’s a critical part of a comprehensive gun crime response strategy that saves lives, improves evidence collection, and builds community trust. There is zero data supporting the claim that ShotSpotter increases the likelihood of police violence, and in fact, community members want ShotSpotter in their neighborhoods to increase safety and protect future generations from the scourge this deadly epidemic.

Karen Morfitt