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The Houston Chronicle is Wrong About ShotSpotter

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What is the life of one resident worth to the Houston Chronicle? How about 35 lives? That is how many gunshot wound victims ShotSpotter helped police locate—and who received immediate aid and survived their wounds – in just over two years of its deployment in Houston. More than one a month.



On July 14, the Houston Chronicle’s Editorial Board published “Crime in Houston is trending downwards, no thanks to flawed ShotSpotter program (Editorial). The Editorial Board is ill-informed on ShotSpotter and their flawed opinion piece reflects mischaracterizations, omits important context and positive outcomes, selectively cherry-picks data, and even cites discredited research.

Like many ShotSpotter critics, the Chronicle’s Editorial Board also entirely overlooks the system’s greatest use: saving lives. That is the reason police prioritize gunfire alerts. The reality is that most shooting incidents are never reported to the police through 9-1-1. ShotSpotter fills that gap. Thankfully not all shootings result in wounded victims, but when they do, speed and precision matter. ShotSpotter’s ultimate value can be measured in the stories of those lives saved.

During the same period that it helped bring aid to 35 victims, ShotSpotter also helped police quickly locate at least 19 murder victims. These crimes leave behind grieving families that may have some hope for justice thanks to timely police investigation. Indeed, ShotSpotter alerts have led to dozens of arrests for serious crimes—like homicide—and helped police take many illegal firearms off the streets.


The mass shooting at Margaret Jenkins Park on July 22, 2023, illustrates all of this. It was ShotSpotter that alerted police to this horrific crime. The shooting claimed the life of young Autumn Vallian but the alert brought immediate medical attention to four other wounded victims. It also allowed police to detain two suspects, secure the crime scene, and collect evidence necessary to prosecute those responsible and hold them accountable.

ShotSpotter is not an ‘either/or’ option. Critics suggest the community can only have ShotSpotter or 9-1-1. ShotSpotter or community investment. ShotSpotter or civil liberty. ShotSpotter or adequate police staffing. But somehow never both. That is a false choice, and it is nonsense. ShotSpotter is not exclusive of these—it is more effective combined with all of them.

The editorial also cites a discredited study by the MacArthur Justice Center in Chicago. A team of economists at research firm Edgeworth Analytics independently reviewed the study and found its conclusions were wrong, relying on deeply flawed analyses of incomplete data that the Center either did not understand or ignored. The 9-1-1 call center data alone provides a misleading picture. Edgeworth’s report can be found here.


Unfortunately, violent crime has no single solution. It takes a comprehensive strategy and ShotSpotter is only one part. It is a tool in the toolbox. It is critical public safety infrastructure that can help save lives, arrest serious offenders, and recover important evidence. Paired with strong community engagement, violence prevention efforts, and appropriate support for law enforcement, it can help make Houston a safer place to live.

Call to Action for Gun Violence Prevention Ebook
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Author Profile
Tom Chittum
Tom is SVP of Forensic Services at SoundThinking. His team supports the effective application of products...Show More
Tom is SVP of Forensic Services at SoundThinking. His team supports the effective application of products in investigations, forensics, and litigation. He has 27 years of federal law enforcement experience and was formerly the Chief Operating Officer of the ATF.Show Less