DURHAM, N.C. — The City of Durham recently signed off on a new gunshot detection system. The technology, Shotspotter, is part of the city's plan to reduce increasing violent crime rates.


What You Need To Know

The City of Durham signed a one-year contract for Shotspotter, a gunshot detection system

The city council approved the technology in a 5-2 vote

The cost will be just under $200,000


Sheryl Smith is a community activist in favor of making the Durham's streets safer for everyone. She has dedicated the past 15 years of her life to giving kids and teens safe spaces to go after school, after losing her own son to gun violence back in 2005. However, she isn't convinced this is the best way to go about reducing the violence in the streets, and although Durham is now taking action, she said it's too little too late.

Sheryl Smith looks at the memorial she has set up in her foyer for her son. (Spectrum News 1/Rachel Boyd))

“They sat back and allowed it to get out of control,” Smith said. “We've been fighting this gun violence for years with no support from our elected officials.”

In a 5-2 vote, the city council approved a contract with Shotspotter, which is technology designed to detect illegal gunshots fired within the city. It uses sensors and microphones that pick up gunfire in a designated area, and automatically notifies the police department.

“If they're over on this side of town then whoever wants to commit a crime gonna go on the other side of town,” Smith said. “They just gonna go somewhere else.”

The city plans for Shotspotter to be implemented by November, but the timeline is subject to change. Exact locations for the sensors will not be shared with the public so as to ensure the safety of any businesses or properties with a sensor nearby. The general area that will be receiving the first trial of the detection system is a 3-mile area in southeast Durham, which has the highest concentration of gunfire events, according to the police department.

Sheryl Smith with a youth at a community center in Durham (Courtesy Sheryl Smith)

“If they're not gonna put it all over Durham, it's not gonna stop the gun violence, no way,” Smith said. “I think that money should be put in the community. Open up these community centers, get these children some afterschool programs, tutoring, activities, 'cause when we had that going on our children wasn't getting in trouble.”

She says the money should be spent on things that directly support the future of Durham and questions whether the technology will truly make a difference.

“I mean, so what is it going to accomplish? They gonna do what they want to do, but still they will not bring in resources in our communities for our children,” Smith said. “Parents out here crying for help, they're crying for help, but everybody knows ain't no help for us. This is why we lose so many of our children to the streets and gangs and to the grave.”

Durham's police chief was also in attendance at the meeting where the contract was approved, briefly speaking to the council, but not expressing an opinion on the issue. The police department will be the lead agency for the implementation and evaluation of Shotspotter.