Important crime fighting technology not always on due to tight city budget

ST. LOUIS (KPLR) – The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department has been using a technology known as ShotSpotter for years. Sensors placed in certain locations detect gunshots. The information is then relayed to officers on the street. The idea is to make St. Louis safer.

On Thursday, our partners at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported the system has not been working at full capacity for the past several months.

The news sparked outrage with some members of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen.

24th Ward Alderman Scott Ogilvie tweeted: “I’m not going to mince words. This is a gross mismanagement of an important tool to combat crime.”

Fox 2 News requested an interview with St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief Sam Dotson, who is also a candidate for mayor. A spokesperson directed us to city hall. St. Louis Public Safety Director Richard Gray issued a statement reading,

“The police department has been using ShotSpotter since 2008.

“There are about 3½ sq mi. of the city that are covered by ShotSpotter. Some equipment was purchased by the department; others were given to us by federal agencies.

“The system over time has evolved into a subscription-based service.

“The annual recurring cost to the department is between $150,000 and $180,000.

“Due to budgetary constraints we have had limited access to the system since August of this year.

“We have identified funds in a very tight budget to restore the system to full service by the end of this week.”

21st Ward Alderman Antonio French said he first found out about the situation from officers on the street. French is also running for mayor. He disputes the notion money was not available, and wonders why aldermen were not notified about a problem paying for the ShotSpotter service.

French blames mismanagement at both the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and city hall for the problem.

“They just need to talk to us and communicate either with the Public Safety Committee or the Ways and Means Committee and this would be a top priority,” French said.

French also believes there needs to be more pairing of the ShotSpotter system with surveillance cameras used in parts of the city. He said at times cameras in his ward have not been working.