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Langfelder defends use of ShotSpotter system in Springfield
Police tape is in place at a crime scene in Springfield. (WICS)

Community groups in Chicago have asked a judge to determine if a gunshot detection system, known as the ShotSpotter, is reliable.

They say the piece of equipment, meant to make neighborhoods safer, is sometimes doing the opposite.

The groups and the MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University's law school cited the ShotSpotter data as faulty, saying it sends officers into predominantly minority neighborhoods for "unnecessary and hostile encounters."

The City of Springfield also has a ShotSpotter, and officials defended its use Wednesday.

It's been in use for one year, as of this week, and the city was expected to pay about $75,000 for the gunshot detection technology.

In the next two years, that will increase to about $284,000 each year.

WRSP

Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder said it's serving its purpose: identifying where gunfire is happening so police can respond in a more informed manner.

The ShotSpotter is a technology that uses acoustic sensors to determine where a shot originated, within 25 feet.

It can also determine what type of weapon was used and whether it was automatic, semi-automatic, etc.

Right now, ShotSpotter is only tracking a certain area of Springfield.

Langfelder estimated a four mile radius, mainly on the east side, stretching north and south.

"That's where we used what we knew from police reports where activity was happening," Langfelder said of the decision to implement it there.

There's been a lot of activity.

We filed a public records request for ShotSpotter alerts.

The results showed 1,043 individual ShotSpotter alerts between May 7, 2020, its implementation, and Jan. 31, 2021.

Newschannel 20 and FOX Illinois' Jordan Elder plotted each one on a map, broken down by location.

Part of the map pinpointing each ShotSpotter alert

The data showed 218 separate alerts identified on New Year's Eve, a holiday known for its fireworks.

The reports including single gunshots, multiple gunshots, and possible gunfire.

Since it was unclear if each of those alerts was actually gunfire, we asked Langfelder if the ShotSpotter is trustworthy.

"Well, we get calls, false alarms, there are burglaries with false alarms" Langfelder said. "With technology, that happens."

But with those false alarms, is the community wasting resources sending police out for gunfire that isn't happening?

Langfelder said Springfield Police Chief Kenny Winslow would have a better answer for that, but said the ShotSpotter does help address violence in the communities.

Langfelder stressed that the city's gun violence plan isn't resting solely on the ShotSpotter.

Instead, it includes a "layered approach" with efforts from all aspects of the community.

We reached out to Springfield Police for more clarification on these findings.

The department had a meeting with ShotSpotter officials Wednesday, and said they would be prepared to comment Thursday.

Springfield is looking to upgrade their ShotSpotter system to get predictive technology, as well.

Langfelder says this comes with a $45,000 price tag.

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