Miami plans to triple the area of the city covered by a network of acoustic sensors built to pick up gunfire and almost instantly report its location to police.
Commissioners on Thursday finalized the city’s $1 billion budget after tweaking it by squeezing in a $325,000 expense to expand the use of ShotSpotter Flex. The system, which routes the suspected gunfire audio to dispatchers tasked with deciding whether to signal police, is currently installed over four miles of the city in Liberty City, Little Haiti, Overtown and Park West.
Miami officials first installed the system in 2014 at a cost of $275,000. Now they plan to expand the system over an additional 10 miles, with half the expansion coming next year and the other half in 2019. The full expansion would eventually cover Coconut Grove, Little Havana, Allapattah, Overtown, Model City, Little Haiti and parts of the Upper Eastside and downtown.
Commissioner Francis Suarez, who in all likelihood will be mayor when the city begins the expansion, suggested the change late Thursday night. He said since the city first adopted the program in 2014, its homicide rate has plummeted by 35 percent.
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“Gunshot incidents, the activity has been reduced by approximately 50 percent in the same period of time,” he said.
ShotSpotter is a polarizing program, with critics questioning its accuracy and efficacy. Miami’s police brass acknowledge that they do receive some false gunfire reports, but say the program has proven useful over time — and has also proven that the vast majority of gunfire incidents go unreported by the public. A Miami Herald review of the first year of ShotSpotter data in Miami showed the system picked up 8,280 incidents of reported gunfire.
Miami Gardens and Miami-Dade County are among the other local jurisdictions that use the system.
Commissioners voted 4 to 1 in favor of the city’s 2018 budget, with Frank Carollo voting no.