Twelve major U.S. cities set homicide records in 2021. As yet another summer surge storms into fall, a national debate continues on how communities and police can work together to enhance public safety for all. This debate has not always been productive. Loud voices on social and mainstream media are attempting to attack important tools police use to improve public safety, such as acoustic gunshot detection. They are attempting to derail the dialogue with an agenda filled with half-truths, falsehoods, and intentional omissions. The fact is, these voices represent a tiny minority of Americans. By and large, Americans overwhelmingly support acoustic gunshot detection. The majority of Americans want to feel safe in their communities and are eager to deploy every tool possible towards addressing the crisis of gun violence and saving lives.
Let’s hear what they have to say…
A National Poll
The Morning Consult conducted a nationwide survey in September 2021 assessing public opinion on a host of topical issues. One of them was acoustic gunshot detection. With an estimated margin of error of +/-2 percent, the survey asked 2,200 adults about their views on gunshot detection, while also gauging support for using such technology in their own communities.
The survey found that 66 percent of Americans backed the use of acoustic gunshot detection technology by law enforcement. Every racial and ethnic group supported the usage of gunshot detection by law enforcement by more than 50 percent, including 69 percent of respondents identifying as Hispanic and 71 percent other non-White.
A Citywide Chicago-Based Poll
Support for gunshot detection was even stronger in a May 2022 poll conducted by Fallon Research and the National Policing Institute that focused on the city of Chicago. With an estimated margin of error of +/-3.46 percent, a sampling of adults was selected from every district in the city, including the Northwest Side, North Side, South Side, Southwest Side, and West Side.
Overwhelmingly, 72 percent of all respondents in Chicago supported acoustic gunshot detection with majority-levels of support in every district. Among those who credited the system with saving lives, support rose to 84 percent. Along racial and ethnic lines, nearly three-quarters of Hispanic/Latinos supported its use, while 64 percent of African-American respondents felt the same. Similar numbers also supported the use of city funding for the technology. And when it came to the question of safety, 65 percent of Hispanic/Latinos and 58 percent of those 65 and older reported feeling “safer” knowing that gunshot detection was in use in the city of Chicago.
Surveying a Neighborhood in Cincinnati
The University of Cincinnati’s Institute of Crime Science (ICS) conducted an independent community survey of Cincinnati’s Price Hill neighborhood, before and after the installation of ShotSpotter® technology. Divided into two parts, residents were asked about their perception of safety, opinions on the Cincinnati Police Department (CPD), and views on acoustic gunshot detection. Those who responded were then invited to participate in part two of the survey, taking place six months later.
The results were no surprise. Following the deployment of ShotSpotter, nearly 95 percent of Price Hill residents surveyed agreed that ShotSpotter is an effective way to reduce crime, while nearly 90 percent believed that ShotSpotter technology represented a “good use” of taxpayer money. Residents were equally enthusiastic to share their positive experiences with others, with nearly 9 out of 10 willing to recommend ShotSpotter to another neighborhood. Perceptions of CPD improved following the deployment of ShotSpotter, as well. Residents’ trust in their police force more than doubled, while their belief that police do their job “well” jumped nearly 60 percent. Views on CPD’s ability to handle gunfire effectively also nearly doubled.
In our highly polarized culture that is all too often fueled by social media, it can seem like Americans struggle to agree on much of anything these days. It can be disheartening, especially given the weight of one of our most intractable issues—gun violence. In the midst of the noise, these polls underscore a key truth. We all want to feel safe in our communities. When it comes to tackling gun violence, a vast majority of Americans support the adoption of acoustic gunshot detection to aid law enforcement in precisely identifying and responding to gunfire incidents to help save the lives of gunshot victims and find evidence. We just have to turn down the noise and listen to the facts.