The city's ShotSpotter program is under fire. It was touted as a high technology tool to fight the scourge of gun crime in some of the most violent neighborhoods in town, but now, a little more than one year into a pilot program, two council members say it's time to re-evaluate.
New District 2 Councilman Cruz Shaw says that he prefers people power over technology.
"Once the police are called, it's too late. The crime's already occurred," said Councilman Shaw, who added that he will not push to extend the city's $270,000 trial of ShotSpotter when the current contract expires.
The program uses a series of strategically placed listening devices to pinpoint, for police, exactly where gunshots are happening in real time.
"We need to be pro-active, not reactive," Councilman Shaw said.
The pilot program has been listening for gunshots in two targeted areas, one in District 2 in east San Antonio and one in District 5 on the west side.
"I think we need to reconsider the effectiveness of the ShotSpotter program since it has shown to lead to almost no arrests," District 5 Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales said. "If there are not enough results, we may not need it."
Shaw says that he is finding people who are energized and committed to making a grassroots push to build a better District 2 and that, as a newcomer to city council, he realizes he may still be in the honeymoon phase of his service.
Still, he says that his constituents are ready to be involved.
"It's about projecting a positive energy. It's easy to find the negatives. Let's find solutions. Let's be creative. Let's talk to folks. Let's sit down and figure out strategies for taking back our community so people are getting off the couch, making phone calls, scheduling meetings, because they know we're going to listen," said Shaw, who noted that a perfect example of a terrific approach is happening in the Dignowity Hill neighborhood.
On Thursday night at the Ella Austin Community Center, there will be a roundtable discussion about what to do about problems related to people who are homeless in the area.
Neighborhood President Brian Dillard said that there are five faith-based groups offering homeless services in the area. Dillard says that his neighbors are ready to take some kind of action to address the problems that come with a transient population, like fighting, littering, and trespassing.
With regard to Thursday's strategy session, Dillard said that he hopes people will not be coming to the event to complain. Dillard says that his plan is to focus on working together on real world solutions.
"This is exciting because what it shows is that the community is taking their community back from gangs, from violence, from drugs, from all the illegal activity. And folks in District 2 are saying 'No. Enough is enough. Let's organize,let's be vocal, and let's show how positive the constituents of District 2 really are,'" Councilman Shaw said.
The San Antonio Police Department provided the following statement in regards to the ShotSpotter program:
We are continuing to evaluate the program's effectiveness as there are a few months left on the contract. SAPD will work with Councilman Shaw's office to determine the best course of action when it comes to crime detection and prevention strategies for the residents in District 2.
Here is a link to the Facebook event page for the meeting at Ella Austin:
For more about the roundtable at Ella Austin, visit the event's official Facebook page here.
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