Inconvenient Truths Could Work Against ShotSpotter in Lawsuit Against Vice News

After spending all that money, is there any feel for how much violence has been reduced? (Virginia Beach Police Department/Facebook)

U.S.A. – -(Ammoland.com)- “Vice Hit With $300M Suit From Controversial Surveillance Company,” The Daily Beast reported Monday. “ShotSpotter alleged in a new complaint that Vice ‘deliberately’ misrepresented the efficacy and implications of their hidden microphone surveillance systems.”

That shouldn’t surprise gun owners. Going to Vice for accurate unbiased gun-related information is typically a fool’s errand (although occasionally, one of their writers makes an honest attempt to get uncensored pro-gun views aired). But forget anything remotely two-sided coming out of The Daily Beast.

That said, as far as ShotSpotter is concerned, it’s fair to ask what could possibly be misrepresented when assessing the value and effectiveness of the acoustic locator technology. The system is being sold to law enforcement departments throughout the land, ostensibly to fight and solve crimes by rapidly deploying police to scenes of shootings.

For his part, ShotSpotter CEO Ralph Clark sees not just misrepresentation, but actionable damages.

“We want to correct the record and we want to hold them to account for their defamatory campaign which has caused damage, compromising future contracts, damaging business relationships, and our reputation,” he declared. “It has also damaged our company’s enterprise value causing our stock price to fall.”

The problem is, Vice is not alone in its negative assessments, and the list of those who could be sued for reporting similar conclusions may not work in the company’s favor.  Here are a few cases in point, some proving that questioning the system’s value is hardly new:

“ShotSpotter Alerts Police To Lots Of Gunfire, But Produces Few Tangible Results,” Forbes published back in 2016. “The majority of ShotSpotter alerts lead to police closing the incident with words such as ‘unfounded,’ ‘unable to locate’ or ‘gone on arrival,’ law enforcement jargon for: ‘We didn’t find anything.’”

“But former Boston police lieutenant Thomas Nolan questions whether the money spent on the technology could better be used to hire more police,” a 2009 Associated Press article reported. “‘The cops I talk to on the street think ShotSpotter is a joke,’ said Nolan, associate criminal justice professor at Boston University.”

“But the system is not dead-on accurate, meaning police must be circumspect about how they use the new trove of data, warn civil liberty advocates,” The Christian Science Monitor noted in 2007, along with a qualifying assessment of some of the reported system “successes”:

“[N]one of the arrested felons and confiscated items were necessarily involved in the original shooting. In one case, police arrived to find a car speeding off. Police pursued, then apprehended a suspect – a convicted felon – who tried to flee. In the car was a loaded semiautomatic pistol. In two other cases, police arrived to find people loitering. On each occasion, they took names and found a person wanted on a warrant.”

Such assessments are not only limited to Vice’s reporting but have been longstanding, so it’s fair for taxpayers to wonder why departments are spending big bucks to acquire and use the system.  The answers could be that violence in urban areas is out of control, authorities have no idea how to get a handle on it, they’re under pressure to “do something,” they get plenty of media cheerleading when they do, and if the money is there, they’re going to spend it so they can keep coming back for more. Besides, it’s not like they really know what else to do with it or would be allowed to if they did.

Plus they get to operate in exclusive circles with people who have connections and “ins.” Here’s another case in point:

“Law Enforcement Industry Veteran David H. Chipman Joins as Senior Vice President, U.S. Public Safety Solutions … Chipman will expand SST’s leadership in partnering with cities nationwide to fight gun violence and related crime through the use of its ShotSpotter gunfire data and intelligence. As an experienced law enforcement veteran, Chipman served in numerous executive and field agent roles at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) for more than 25 years. While at the ATF, he developed, implemented and evaluated firearms violence reduction strategies aimed at making America’s neighborhoods safer.”

“Aimed at.” It doesn’t say he actually reduced any violence, does it?

At the risk of the pit bull lawyers at “Clare Locke, the law firm that has become notorious in media circles for its aggressive counsel in defamation cases against media companies” taking exception with me, may I just say his and ShotSpotter’s intentions-based goals appear to mesh?

Except perhaps that’s not fair. A new development just came in over the transom.

“Man who fired gun in Virginia Beach arrested with help from newly expanded ShotSpotter tech, police say,” WAVY-TV 10 reported Tuesday. “In a press release, police said they responded to the 400 block of Cottage Way just after 4:30 a.m. after receiving an alert from ShotSpotter.”

It might be more impressive if a search on the man’s name didn’t show that’s where he currently lives, so it’s not like the arrest came after a drive-by shooting or a running gun battle where the perps would be miles away by the time the VBPD arrived on the scene. That and what does “with the help of” really mean, and did anything else immediately take place after the ShotSpotter alert? No other resident or neighbor calls or anything…?

We don’t know – yet – because Virginia Beach’s ePRO (Electronic Police Reports Online) system doesn’t have anything on the incident at this writing and advises “Allow at least 14 days from the report date for data entry or scanning into our records management systems.”

But say any suspicions that the whole matter didn’t safely resolve thanks to ShotSpotter prove unfounded, and that they deserve the appreciation of a grateful community for taking a menace to public safety off the streets. Except he won’t be in long on “reckless handling of a firearm and discharging a firearm within city limits” charges.

In April the city spent $240,000 to install the system in the Oceanfront area. Now it’s in the Cottage Way area. Nearby Newport News got it in 2019. For that kind of money, it’s not unreasonable to ask how many really bad actors have been removed from the region since the installations, how many captures were attributable to ShotSpotter, and how much smoke and noise is going on to justify expenditures.


About David Codrea:

David Codrea is the winner of multiple journalist awards for investigating/defending the RKBA and a long-time gun owner rights advocate who defiantly challenges the folly of citizen disarmament. He blogs at “The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance,” is a regularly featured contributor to Firearms News, and posts on Twitter: @dcodrea and Facebook.

David Codrea

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Mack
Mack(@mackhh)
1 month ago

You raise a good observation regarding Virginia Beach.It is far easier if the shooter is stationary.

Left unsaid by everyone is the current culture of witnesses who will not be helpful. Not like in the good old days, huh.

hoss
hoss(@hossgreen2000)
1 month ago

Shotspotter is just another tool that is used to bypass the God given rights we’re entitled to. The FBI used to not be so bad under J Edgar, but since his demise, they have gone full Nazi,SS or FSB, take your pick.
Since the Commie Rat Bastards (CRBs) stole the election they have implemented many CRB practices. These CRBs have been slowly taking over different institutions in this country, for years indoctrinating our children. It became more prevalent after Reagan. Just my opinion.

Wild Bill
Wild Bill(@wild-bill)
1 month ago
Reply to  hoss

I like that opinion!

JayWPB
JayWPB(@fl-ga)
1 month ago

I guess that app should be pre-installed on Obama Phones.

Wild Bill
Wild Bill(@wild-bill)
1 month ago

Man, that is a good quote to have handy! I’m going to use this against my library niece!

JimmyS
JimmyS(@jimmys)
1 month ago
Reply to  Wild Bill

Yeah, those libraries have got to go. Dens of iniquity. Nothing good ever happened in a library. Can’t believe we put up with them. Time to bring Alexandria into the modern times!

And yes, I know this was an auto-correct issue.

Wild Bill
Wild Bill(@wild-bill)
1 month ago
Reply to  JimmyS

You are a good man!

Wild Bill
Wild Bill(@wild-bill)
1 month ago
Reply to  Wild Bill

That should be libtard not library. Damn spell check.

Country Boy
Country Boy(@country-boy)
1 month ago

Sounds like the polis don’t care if it actaully reduces shootings, but rather they are delighted to have once again instituted more surveillance mechanisms to spy on citizens with, thus making the “Police State” stronger. What did you expect from a bunch of Democrats?

JimmyS
JimmyS(@jimmys)
1 month ago
Reply to  Country Boy

Are Democrats typical supporters of The Impenetrable Pile of Blue Bullshit? No, that would be their just-as-evil twin, the Republicans.

Country Boy
Country Boy(@country-boy)
1 month ago
Reply to  JimmyS

Democrats are typical supporters of anything anti American, anti gun, political corruption, voter fraud, and other evils against our country.

Roland T. Gunner
Roland T. Gunner(@freecompanier)
1 month ago

Mr. Codrea, I’ts good to read more of your musings. Let me say that I am sick and tired AND pissed at the expansion of electronic surveillance in the United States. A society where I cannot pick my nose leaving my house without having cameras (or listening devices) vectoring in the bad behavior police to my location when I park my car is not a society I want to live in. Also, that Chipman fellow sure knows how to pad his resume, don’t he?

Wild Bill
Wild Bill(@wild-bill)
1 month ago

Quietly sell, and move to the country. Oh, and keep a landline. They need a warrant for your landline. For cell phones, they don’t.

swmft
swmft(@swmft)
1 month ago

we could ship all the criminals to a country like australia where they treat everyone like criminals

Wild Bill
Wild Bill(@wild-bill)
1 month ago
Reply to  swmft

Yes, and hand cuff a politician to each of them, when they go.

Arny
Arny(@dmaxter)
1 month ago

No worries they can afford to waste money. No need for roads when you’re that close to water. lol

DDS
DDS(@dds)
1 month ago

Think of ShotSpotter as just another hardware/software “solution” pitched to solve a problem. Things like that are rarely pitched to the people who will actually administer, use, or maintain it. They’re pitched by very experienced sales people to the politicians and/or upper management who oversee budgets. As an example, the traffic signals in Miami-Dade County, FL are synchronized. In fact they are synchronized in three different batches, installed by three different contractors over the last twenty years or so, some of them failed and no longer in business. None of the three systems talk to each other. In fact, the… Read more »

JimmyS
JimmyS(@jimmys)
1 month ago
Reply to  DDS

Yes, it’s all a convoluted and corrupt scam. I think we understand that. The question is, “What are we going to do to fix this?”

hippybiker
hippybiker(@hippy-biker)
1 month ago

They sold thisBS in Chicago. It hasn’t solved one crime. Waste of money!

Tionico
Tionico(@tionico)
1 month ago
Reply to  hippybiker

Windy have also spent BigBux on technical fo lks to analise the bore patterns on thousands of cartridges recovered at “crime scenes”, and have only been able to use the data to point them to a small handful of crimiinals, and trace the serial use of one stolen gun to some forty crimes committed with that one gun, stolen in Indiana threee years ago. Have only solved a small handful of crimes. They connected that one handgun with the forty oterh crimes, but since the chain of custody of that gun is unknown, no perps behind bars. But they keep… Read more »