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Cape parties say City’s ShotSpotter missed the mark on crime

Metro Police officers conduct stop and search action after being alerted by ShotSpotter of an gunshot in the area. File Picture: Henk Kruger/ANA/African News Agency

Metro Police officers conduct stop and search action after being alerted by ShotSpotter of an gunshot in the area. File Picture: Henk Kruger/ANA/African News Agency

Published Mar 18, 2021

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Cape Town - The effectiveness of the City’s R32 million gunshot detection system, also known as ShotSpotter, has been questioned by opposition legislators after it was established that the contract for the technology expired in July 2019 and has yet to be renewed.

ShotSpotter is described by its manufacturers as a gunshot detection system that detects and conveys the location of gunfire or other weapons fire using acoustic, optical or potentially other types of sensors, as well as a combination of such sensors.

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The expiry of the contract was revealed in a written answer from local government MEC Anton Bredell to a question from Good MPL Brett Herron.

Herron said: “It cost ratepayers R32 million and was vigorously marketed by the City as a game-changer in reducing shooting crimes on the Cape Flats, but it has now been confirmed that Cape Town quietly abandoned its much-heralded ShotSpotter crime prevention project in 2019.

“In his written response, finally tabled this week, Bredell was at pains to defend the project's value for money. He offered no reasons for its abandonment when the City's contract with the US owners of the technology expired in 2019.”

According to Bredell’s answer: “Between 2016 and 2019, ShotSpotter recorded 6 688 incidents of gunfire.”

Meanwhile, responding to an opinion piece published this week in which mayor Dan Plato mentioned the Shotspotter, ANC provincial spokesperson on community safety Mesuli Kama said the technology had not offered value for money.

Kama said: “Nearly R32 million was spent in the process and led to only 67 arrests as a direct result of the use of this technology.

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“It is clear that there is no value for money in this technology and that the government should invest resources on more effective tools such as more CCTV in the Cape Flats.”

Responding to queries about the ShotSpotter contract, Mayco member for safety and security JP Smith denied that the system was disbanded.

Smith said: “Access to the gunfire detection system came to an end in April 2019 and the City’s metro police department recommended that a new tender should be initiated. The initial funding for the system was limited grant funding.

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“We had hoped to reinstate the gunfire detection system in the following financial year, but due to Covid-19 and the hard lockdown the country faced last year, it made commencing with a new tender process financially and logistically impossible. A new tender process for the gunfire detection system started last month.

“The City envisages that a new tender will be in place by the end of this year, subject to the completion of the tender process,” said Smith.

Smith said the Shotspotter system added huge value, hence the starting of the process to reinstate it.

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Smith said: “It should be noted that convictions ​are not primarily dependent on the gunfire detection system but on the criminal justice system.”

Cape Argus

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