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ShotSpotter FAQs

ShotSpotter FAQs

Tacoma Police Department’s Answers to ShotSpotter FAQs

 Thanks to a grant from the Bureau of Justice Administration (BJA), the Tacoma Police Department (TPD) is pursuing a pilot with ShotSpotter and other technologies to help address gun violence in our City. The Smart Policing Initiative (SPI) funding will be used to implement and evaluate ShotSpotter and its ability to provide immediate identification of gunshots and their exact locations, which is intended to reduce response times and allow for improved investigations.


The BJA grant will also fund the implementation and evaluation of RECOVER Latent Fingerprint Technology to increase TPD’s ability to identify suspects in shootings where casings are recovered and fund the replacement of a FARO Focus 3D Laser Scanner (crime scene scanner) used to capture complete, accurate images of on-scene evidence and generate 360-degree views of crime scenes to improve evidence collection and documentation. The TPD is dedicated to addressing gun violence by implementing and evaluating technology’s potential to improve response times, increase the collection of evidence, use that evidence to link separate shootings and identify potential suspects, and improve TPD's investigations of violent crimes involving firearms. 


Why is the Tacoma Police Department implementing a product some consider controversial?

The system is in operation in more than 150 cities and is used by police to: 

  •  respond to a higher percentage of gunfire incidents;
  •  improve response times to crime scenes to better aid victims and find witnesses;
  • and  help police locate key evidence to identify and investigate suspects.

How will this technology impact 911 call volume and dispatch? 

 The pilot will not significantly impact call volumes as community members typically call 911 when shots are fired anyway. 


 How will ShotSpotter impact response times? 

 Tacoma Police officers are already responding to shots fired calls from the community; if there is any impact, it will be minimal.


How will ShotSpotter impact TPD’s Violent Crime Reduction Plan (VCRP)?

It will be used to complement phase 2 of the Violent Crime Reduction Plan.


 How is the data collected by ShotSpotter different than the data currently driving the Violent Crime Reduction Plan? 

ShotSpotter will be used to complement phase 2 of the Violent Crime Reduction Plan. SoundThinking, the creator of ShotSpotter, used data collected during implementation of the VCRP to determine where to place the sensors. TPD’s first area of focus will be two square miles in the Hosmer area, which is an area supported by data previously derived for the Violent Crime Reduction Plan. This included call volume, types of crimes, and calls in that area. The Hosmer area was identified through data as one of the areas with the highest violent crime rate, and TPD is committed to continuing crime reduction in that area.


 What protections are there to prevent TPD from over policing certain communities, which is a common criticism of ShotSpotter?

According to SoundThinking, ShotSpotter provides police with a tool to respond to and investigate gunshot incidents in a more precise area compared to the 9-1-1 system to avoid canvassing entire blocks or neighborhoods. There is zero data supporting the claim that ShotSpotter puts police on high alert or creates dangerous situations. Rather, ShotSpotter equips police officers with more information than they might typically have when arriving at the scene of a gunshot incident, and they arrive at the scene more situationally aware. Additionally, ShotSpotter provides intelligence that allows police to coordinate a safe and efficient response, requiring fewer resources, and in a way that can enhance community trust.


TPD continues to promise the community that it will not deploy resources that will cause harm to anyone. If TPD becomes aware of a tool that is not consistent with the values of the agency, TPD will immediately cease the use of the technology.


How will ShotSpotter impact TPD officer’s abilities to meet ongoing demand to address home and business property crimes? 

Reducing violent crime will increase TPDs ability to focus on property crimes. 


 Is TPD committed to funding this project beyond the pilot? 



 When will the data be ready for consideration in City of Tacoma budget conversations?

The pilot is scheduled to last three years. At that point, the City will decide whether to continue the program based on the data collected during the pilot. 


There is no requirement to provide any funds beyond the pilot. 


Will the Tacoma City Council have an opportunity to hear the results of the ShotSpotter pilot or will this continue to be an administrative level decision? 

The City Council and community members will receive regular updates throughout the pilot. 


What presentation will be given at the end of the pilot program in three years? 

The Bureau of Justice Administration grant requires an academic review of the ShotSpotter program. Dr. Jessica Huff of the University of Cincinnati has been retained to evaluate the program. Dr. Huff will provide an overview of the successes and/or failures of utilizing ShotSpotter as an investigative tool to complement the Violent Crime Reduction Plan. 


How much is ShotSpotter adding to TPD’s Public Disclosure Request (PDR) processing and costs? 

TPD does not own the data; therefore, there will be no increase in PDR costs.


 What protections are there for TPD data? 

TPD does not share data with SoundThinking. The company shares data from ShotSpotter alerts with TPD. Data will be shared with Dr. Huff for academic oversight, and ultimately, the Bureau of Justice Administration will oversee the entire project as part of the grant.


What protections are in place to comply with Keep Washington Working Act which prohibits local jurisdictions from sharing police data with U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE)?

ICE is not a party to this grant and does not receive information from the Tacoma Police Department.