The needler in the haystack.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Clarity, accountability on ShotSpotter project crucial


2010 map envisioned potential area for ShotSpotter technology.

I first learned of Saturday night's double shooting near Plainfield's Drake House museum early on Sunday morning (see here). At the time, police said that the ShotSpotter system had failed to report the gunshots to the Police Division.

Yet when Plainfield Public Safety Director Martin Hellwig was quoted -- finally -- in Tuesday's Courier (see here) and Ledger (see here), he said that the ShotSpotter system had indeed correctly identified the gunshots.

Notwithstanding Hellwig's asertions, I am still told by cops that the ShotSpotter system did not identify the gunshots in the double shooting.

There is too much at stake here for their to be fuzziness about what the facts are.

It is just a year now since the Council approved the $169,000 tab for the first year's lease, along with accepting a $250,000 technology grant for equipment and installation. The system was installed and tested earlier this summer, but the public has not hear since then of its effectiveness.

In fact, inquiring of several Council members turned up the information that not only have they not been informed by Director Hellwig of the system's implementation and issues or effectiveness, they also noted that communications concerning criminal activities have become spotty over the last several months and no one knew of the double shooting until reading it on Plainfield Today or seeing it in the Courier and Ledger.

The point of the ShotSpotter technology is both to give the Police Division near-instantaneous information on gunshot incidents and to reassure the public that authorities know about, can locate and are prepared to take action in relation to gunplay in the city.

Transparency about all this is crucial to the public's trust that the program is effective and the taxpayers' money is being well spent.

So far, aside from a little fizz about setting up tests to calibrate the system, the public has heard nothing. Does this mean there are problems with the system? Or that there is nothing to report? Either way the public deserves to know.

I am well aware there are tensions within the Police Division and that not everyone sees things the way Director Hellwig does. This is all the more reason for the Robinson-Briggs administration to want to have complete, accurate, factual and timely information about the project made available to the public.

Given the Robinson-Briggs administration's history with regard to accurate communications, I am inclined to give more weight to those who question how well things get done until we have proof positive that the project is indeed working as intended.

Too much is at stake, and it's not just the money.


-- Dan Damon [follow]

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4 comments:

Bob said...

Even though we didn't buy this system, and cudos to the Council members who wanted to go slow, I still think is was a waste of money. If it isn't going to work correctly, then it simply is there to give us a false sense of security. The current administration doesn't give us any sense of security, so I guess it must come from some place. I also don't trust Hellwig. He was put in that job to cover for Sharon and as political payback. Let's demand Hellwig and Sharon be forthcoming with this and not settle for their usual BS. Hey Sharon, this is why you won't get another term!

Alan Goldstein said...

Of Mother Teresa, the late author and journalist Christopher Hitchens wrote, "MT was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty."

So it is with ShotSpotter, and the long line of local politicians who, while professing their love for Plainfield, lay down at the face of profiteering and narrow, personal self-interest.

ShotSpotter is more akin to the last refuge of scoundrels, those who would trim the library budget to the minimum, permit public employees to make off with a king's ransom at PMUA, and bastardize a job training program (losing $60 or $70,000 in grant money in the process) in order to enrich the family of a former City Council President by means of an illegal contract. The enrichment always comes first, to hell with everyone else.

Basically it's the go-along, get-along types that continue to let us down, who've thrown up their hands of incompetence and seek miracles because hard-work eludes them. It's why at the city's premiere intersection we've got the unemployment line and DYFS instead of the core of a vibrant commercial district.

Keep them in poverty. Offer them bread crumbs in return for the opportunity to minister to their misery. It's the secret of political power in this city. Friendly it is not, and don't look for any positive results either. Solutions are not what counts.

Anonymous said...

The big whitewash, for a change. Albert Speer had nothing on this hopeless crew of admin.

Anonymous said...

At Aboy Marty.....
What else are you lying about????

I would believe the Plainfield Police before I would that political snake.

Let's not forget his little ride to north Jersey in a City vehicle on personal pleasure business.

He makes me sick. Whenever I see him I want to take a bath!