Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Hellwig: Not happy with ShotSpotter service

Schematic shows how ShotSpotter system works.
(from The Saginaw News)

While Plainfield's Public Safety Director Martin Hellwig took pains to remind the Council at Monday's agenda-setting session that he still believed in the value of the ShotSpotter technology, he said 'to be candid, I'm not happy with the service we're getting'.

Hellwig added that he was pushing for a meeting with representatives of the company that installed the technology based on a $250,000 grant for the equipment and a $179,000 City-funded contract for one year's worth of services.

Hellwig told the Council that among other items, he wanted to push back the 'start date' of the contract. His remarks came during the Council's review of the work of its ad hoc committees after an inquiry from Councilor Bill Reid on how the ShotSpotter program was going.

I have written about the ShotSpotter program several times since it was first proposed (see the posts here), and last August raised some issues when cops told me that ShotSpotter had failed to identify gunshots from a double shooting near the Drake House (see here).

As I suggested, Plainfielders deserve answers to several questions, including --

  • What sort of accuracy rate is acceptable under the terms of the contract?
  • How is agreement reached between the vendor and the City that the system is fully operational?
  • Why should the city be paying for the service (over $14,000/month) until it's fully operational?
  • Will the vendor extend the contract on a per month basis gratis until agreement is reached that the system is fully operational?
On the city's side, there are also some questions that deserve answers.

While it is understandable that the location of the ShotSpotter sensors is confidential, the information about where and when and how many shots are fired, etc., ought to be public information and readily available from the city for its residents.

Not only would such information about how frequent gunplay is and where it takes place go a long way to soothing residents' nerves, posting such information is valuable as a way of keeping the vendor accountable.

If ShotSpotter is to be judged a worthwhile expenditure of taxpayer resources, it must show that it is doing an acceptable job at spotting gunfire incidents in a timely and accurate manner, and the Council should require the Robinson-Briggs administration to lay out the exact minimum standards to which the vendor will be held.

Though the whole discussion Monday was low-keyed, it was noteworthy that Council President Adrian Mapp asked Hellwig whether the City had an 'out clause' in the contract by which Plainfield would be able to extract itself if outstanding performance and service issues could not be resolved.

Expect to hear more on this matter.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.


Bob said...

Maybe we should drop this dog of a program and work on neighborhood cameras or help businesses pay for and install cameras which can be monitored by our police. I'm sure this would be cheaper to have one or two police employees watch the public cameras than our "Shot-misser" program.

Anonymous said...

Will you give us Hellwig's answer to Mapp's question? Did Mapp ask the question before voting his approval for the contract, or will this just be another instance where he gives his approval and then passes the buck? If this guy ever becomes mayor you can bet your bottom dollar that accountability will be out the door waltzing with the current mayor's brand.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for showing the source and amount of funding that has gone into Shotspotter. Plainfield bought a very expensive pig in the poke. I wonder if the company's people are showing their gratitude with campaign donations this year?

Other issues besides improving response time to shootings is whether it will improve the arrest rate or make life-saving changes in getting medical care to victims. Even if response times are improved, if the shooters still get away or victims still survive, then why do we need this high-tech "toy?"

Anonymous said...

@8:32AM -

. . . if I am correct it does not take only Council President Mapp's vote. Your answer is extremely ignorant and hateful.

by the way . . . I just read Rebecca Williams blog, "Go and Sit Down Somewhere" . . .

ANONYMOUS 8:32am . . . guess what?!

Ravenell Williams said...

Dan, wonderful article, we are looking forward to a great motorcycle ride and then food and music at library park. However, the weather may not cooperate. Everyone please check the YMCA wedsite,,for information about a possible postponement to October 14, 2012.