#StopShotspotter: Cancel the ShotSpotter Contract & Reinvest in Communities

Houston City Council, Harris County Commissioners Court, District Attorney Kim Ogg

This petition represents the demands of undersigned Houston community members for the City of Houston and Harris County to:

  • Cancel their contracts with private surveillance company ShotSpotter;
  • Stop the prosecution of criminal cases that use ShotSpotter alerts as evidence;
  • Reinvest the $3.5 million fund intended for ShotSpotter into community supports for gun violence prevention like direct cash assistance, housing and rent support, educational supports that can help address the root causes of gun violence; and
  • Accelerate implementation of non-violent crisis response programs to ensure that people facing crises or harm can receive unarmed, non-policing emergency assistance.

Who We Are

Houston DSA’s Abolition Working Group is working with the Houston Abolitionist Collective to build a coalition of organizations and individuals working to oppose ShotSpotter presence in Houston and Harris County. This campaign is part of Houston DSA’s Abolition Working Group.

Why We’re Here

ShotSpotter, Inc. is a privately-owned surveillance company that sells gunshot detection technology to police departments and has business in over 100 cities. The company frames itself as a public safety tool to help police officers and is solely a company that relies on gun violence for profit. The City of Houston and Harris County are spending millions of dollars on a technology that increases police budgets and surveillance in Black, brown, and poor neighborhoods without any evidence that it can accurately detect gunshots or that it reduces gun violence.

What’s Going On

On January 5, 2022, Houston City Council voted to approve a new five-year, $3.5 million contract with ShotSpotter to expand the use of listening devices and surveillance cameras outside of the existing pilot area. Multiple councilmembers noted that there is not sufficient evidence to show that ShotSpotter will effectively reduce gun violence or improve public safety, but suggested that spending these funds would make community members “feel safer.”

Harris County launched a three-year, $780,000 contract with ShotSpotter in Northeast Houston in May 2021 after a vote by the County Commissioners in December 2020. Former Sheriff Adrian Garcia championed the adoption of the surveillance technology in an effort to address concerns about gunfire, and Commissioners unanimously voted to approve the contract to eventually expand to all precincts.

The reality is that Shotspotter does not make communities safer. The City of San Antonio cut its contract with ShotSpotter after evidence showed that the technology did not reduce gun violence. Research conducted by MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University School of Law found that 89% of ShotSpotter deployments in Chicago turned up no gun-related crime; 86% of ShotSpotter deployments led to no report of any crime at all; and that during the 21.5 months studied, there were more than 40,000 dead-end ShotSpotter deployments.

As a coalition, we agree that reducing gun violence should be a priority for the City Council and that there are significant needs in Houston’s communities to address safety issues. But we will firmly oppose any and all interventions that respond to these high priority needs through increased policing. ShotSpotter surveillance technology in the hands of police will mean more officers charging into neighborhoods on high alert, expecting armed conflict.

Sponsored by
Houston, TX

To: Houston City Council, Harris County Commissioners Court, District Attorney Kim Ogg
From: [Your Name]

Dear City of Houston and Harris County leaders,

We are a coalition of community organizations and individuals calling on the City of Houston and Harris County to cancel their contracts with ShotSpotter to install surveillance listening devices and cameras that increase policing in our communities. We also demand that the District Attorney’s Office halt the prosecution of any and all cases using evidence from ShotSpotter alerts to bring criminal charges.

We urge the City and County to reinvest the $3.5 million ShotSpotter fund into existing and new gun violence prevention programs as well as funds for direct financial assistance, housing and rent assistance, and educational supports that can help address the root causes of gun violence. We urge the City and County to invest in higher wages and more support for operations of nonviolent 911 response to ensure that people facing crises can receive more options for immediate, unarmed, nonpolicing support.