East Cleveland Police Chief Brian Gerhard stands outside the mayor's office after a news conference at East Cleveland City Hall on Monday. Credit: Stephanie Casanova / Signal Cleveland

ShotSpotter, a gunshot detection system, will go live in East Cleveland Monday afternoon. 

The system uses acoustic sensors and computer software to detect gunshots and alert police. 

It will allow East Cleveland officers to respond to shots fired without waiting for the public to call 911, Brian J. Gerhard, East Cleveland Police Chief, said in a news conference Monday morning. 

ShotSpotter sensors will cover just under two square miles of the 3.1-square-mile city, Gerhard said. He did not say where the sensors were located. 

Signal background

ShotSpotter: A primer

On Oct. 10, Cleveland City Council passed legislation that would use about $2.75 million to expand ShotSpotter, a gunshot-detection technology.

Gerhard said the department received $149,000 in grant funding for the ShotSpotter program. Of that, $100,000 is for equipment and $49,000 is for “extra overtime to send officers out to monitor those areas,” he said. 

Asked about the terms of the city’s contract with ShotSpotter, Gerhard said, “It’s pretty much paid for.” He added he’s not sure there will be more access for funding “because we’ve already paid for everything up front.” 

The Cleveland Division of Police is in the process of expanding its ShotSpotter services from three square miles to 10. The Fifth District which borders East Cleveland, will be the first part of the citywide expansion. 

East Cleveland Mayor Brandon King said  his city needs the technology and resources available to be a modern city. 

An East Cleveland police vehicle is parked in front of East Cleveland City Hall on Monday, March 20, 2023. Credit: Stephanie Casanova / Signal Cleveland

Gerhard said he’s seen criticism of ShotSpotter including  ACLU reports claiming ShotSpotter targets certain people. The technology doesn’t know the race or gender of the person firing a gun, Gerhard said.

“That’s kind of ridiculous if you think about it,” Gerhard said. “I could be driving through the city painted green, it’s not going to tell them that’s a green person that fired that shot. It’s going to actually pinpoint where the shot’s coming from. Officers will get there quicker.”

Critics in Cleveland have said ShotSpotter can lead to an increase in “stop and frisk” cases in Black and brown communities. Reports also show ShotSpotter is not effective at reducing crime

Chicago’s Office of Inspector General concluded that Chicago Police responses to ShotSpotter alerts “rarely produce documented evidence of a gun-related crime, investigatory stop, or recovery of a firearm.”

Another report from St. Louis found no significant reduction in crime attributable to the ShotSpotter sensors. 

Criminal Justice Reporter (she/her)
Stephanie, who covered criminal justice and breaking news at the Chicago Tribune, is a bilingual journalist with a passion for storytelling that is inclusive and reflects the diversity of the communities she covers. She has been a reporter and copy editor for local newspapers in South Dakota, Kansas and Arizona. Stephanie is also a Maynard 200 alumni, a Maynard Institute for Journalism Education training program for journalists of color that focuses on making newsrooms more equitable, diverse and anti-racist.