Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

How to Nab Bad Guys

ShotSpotter has become a key tool for city police, but Walker says no to funding and Abele says yes.

By - Oct 10th, 2013 01:07 pm

Last week the Milwaukee police scored another victory with ShotSpotter, the cutting-edge technology that uses a system of sensors to document the sounds of gunfire and pinpoint a location. This enabled police to arrest two teens accused in a series of bus-stop robberies and gather evidence against a family believed to be supplying guns. The police descended on a house on the block identified by ShotSpotter, asked to search it and found several guns and ammunition.

Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn

Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn

Chief Edward Flynn estimates this detection system has resulted in an 18 percent reduction in shots fired in neighborhoods covered by ShotSpotter. The police department also says ShotSpotter has figured in 14 homicide investigations.

In short, ShotSpotter has become an indispensable tool, a way for police to nab more bad guys using guns to commit crimes. Yet Gov. Scott Walker has turned down Mayor Tom Barrett’s plea for state funding to the program.  Meanwhile, County Executive Chris Abele has taken the unusual step of allocating money in his budget to help fund ShotSpotter.

A story in Forbes magazine spotlighted Milwaukee as leader in using this technology, which has been adopted by 75 cities world-wide. “People in the community are very supportive, because it enables us to catch people before a 911 call is made,” Flynn told Forbes. “It also lets us catch people without neighbors being accused of ‘snitching.’”

Flynn’s entire approach to policing is data driven, using real-time data to proactively patrol high-crime neighborhoods. The MPD began the ShotSpotter program two years ago, installing sensors in a 3.1 square-mile area. (Police have not disclosed where the sensors are located.) The amount of data it created was stunning: Police found that only 14 percent of its information on gun shots had previously been reported by residents. And the technology is remarkably accurate, pinpointing the location of a gunshot to a radius of 85 feet. It can actually differentiate between types of guns, whether fired from a shotgun or long rifle, a 9mm handgun or a .45-caliber handgun. And it’s fast, feeding the information so quickly that police can get to the scene of the shot within minutes.

The department this year has budgeted $140,000 for ShotSpotter’s coverage of 3.1 square-miles and has trained 200 officers to use the technology. “The goal is not the entire city,” says Lt. Mark Stanmeyer, a department spokesperson. “Another 7 square miles would enable us to cover the most challenged neighborhoods and use previously unavailable intelligence to be more predictive and more preventative.”

But even as the police look to beef up its policing, the state legislature has been cutting back funding to the department, which originally went for police overtime and community policing. State funding was $750,000 in 2006 but began to decline in the years since.

In the most recent budget, the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee included $445,500 for community policing in Milwaukee, which Flynn hoped to use for ShotSpotter. But Walker removed it from his executive budget and legislators declined to restore the money. Walker has suggested that every city will want a special program like Milwaukee’s.

But Flynn responds that Milwaukee is the state’s only city with such a high level of crime or so great a need for funding. He charged that the governor’s response is political, and caused by “the apparent desperate need of the (Walker) administration to exact political payback on Milwaukee. Because the mayor had the temerity to challenge for the governor’s job. What else could it be?”

Flynn apparently still has hopes that legislators will reconsider funding ShotSpotter, but my guess is they are unlikely to cross Walker on this.

But County Executive Abele has stepped forward and included $300,000 in his budget for the police department’s ShotSpotter system. He says this is a one-time item for the county.

“The city is in the county,” Abele declared. “We’re all the same voters. We’re all the same taxpayers. We all care about public safety. If we can make an investment that is going to benefit a lot of people in the county – how we do it to me is less important than that we do it. If we work together we’re more likely to get to better outcomes than if we work apart.”

This strikes me as quite unprecedented. I can’t ever recall any county exec proposing to spend on a city program. It certainly makes sense. It is in the spirit of finding cooperation and cost savings between overlapping municipalities (as is Abele’s proposal to have local police replace the county sheriff in patrolling the lakefront and parks); community leaders and newspaper editorials have long called for such cooperation.

Beyond that, the program has appeal for conservatives who want to get tough on gun-wielding criminals and liberals who want the police to devote more resources to high-poverty, high-crime neighborhoods. I would think it would be tough for county board members to oppose this, though they typically have been sour on anything proposed by Abele. I hope that doesn’t happen in this case.

Categories: Murphy's Law, Politics

18 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: How to Nab Bad Guys”

  1. Dean Deardurff says:

    Imagine that, Milwaukee being the highest crime in the state? Damm, it can’t be because of the politicians who are running the city. Hell no, it’s the Governor fault. are you kidding me? Is that the best you can do? Where does a liberal mind come from? Comedy central?

  2. Bruce Thompson says:

    It is certainly refreshing to learn that you are focused on finding solutions for problems rather than making political points.

  3. Casey says:

    I think Oconomoc and Racine both have higher crime RATES than Milwaukee…..both have Republican state reps….Milwaukee needs this because Milwaukee is the largest city and thus would have the largest inpact on Wisconsin citizen. Believe it or not the citizens of Milwaukee are also citizens of Wisconsin.

  4. Bill says:

    @Casey I was just going to make that point! hopefully this tech will come down in price as more cities adopt it’s use so small municipalities such as Racine would be able to implement it.

  5. Ed says:

    Instead of spending all this money on technology to invade our privacy, how about just putting more boots on the streets? How about adding a new station house on the northwest side? District 7 runs from 33rd Street to 100th Street and from Villard to Center while District 4 covers 28 square miles and District 3 covers 22 square miles. Those are ridiculously large areas.

  6. Dave Reid says:

    @Ed I think the answer to that question is pretty clear. More “boots” on the streets is very very expensive.

  7. Dave G says:

    Police departments have massive budgets. They need to learn how to allocate the resources they have. If this system is truly that effective it should logically free up money that is being used in a less efficient manner. Liberals are always spend first and budget later if at all. Walker is correct in not adding spending to the state budget.

  8. Howard Kapper says:

    Politics aside, Shot Spotter works in larger cities all over the country as the larger cities have greater economies of scale. I work with law enforcement command staff (Chief, Capt., Lt’s., Sarg’s,) all over the state in my retirement/ financial services practice, and Shot Spotter is on the wish list of many chiefs even in the medium size cities.

    Budgets have been cut and cut again, and there is no more room for more “boots” anywhere. The class 4 (10,000 pop or less) cities, villages and towns have been hit the hardest.

    Right now we have 300+ Milwaukee County Sheriffs deputies trying to do the work of the 1000 from ten years ago. Have you not noticed fewer patrols on the freeways?

    So my question is: Is your right to privacy more infringed upon with electronic equipment more so than having a gun jammed in your face by a bad guy?

  9. Nicholas says:

    The Police department budget is not a very political thing, and the captains and Inspectors and Deputy Chiefs are not political appointees, they are professionals and civil servants.

    I would highly recommend you take a look at the MPD operating budget before you speak.

  10. Bill Sweeney says:

    As with any politician, I don’t agree with everything that County Executive Ablele has done, and there are people who know far more than I do about the workings of county government who don’t have a high opinion about him, but it certainly seems hard to pigeonhole him. Which is a rather remarkable feat in our current political environment.

  11. Dean Deardurff says:

    How many of you think that maybe all the problems can be attributed to education? Dumbing down of America, ( common core ) , Milwaukee rate of graduation just from hight school. When you are unable to work because of lack of education, you turn to crime. What you are teaching is false, I talk to a young black adult (20), who was taught that the constitution is not up to date with the times. Really? Needs to be changed. Not teaching cursive writing now? Whats the intent? So you can’t read the actual documents for yourselve. To learn the truth…..

  12. Fly by Flynn says:

    This program only works if the cops on streets are abe to respond to it and properly investigate the shootings. Therefore, it doesnt work and cops know it. The dispatchers sit on these calls, the cops are not given time to investigate and there are no more detectives to do follow up. Maybe Flynn has more luck in Boston with it….

  13. Javice says:

    Please pass this along to Chicago, IL they need help down there this could be an solution but I’m pretty sure if Milwaukee has it Chicago has heard about it or tried it. But they need a resolution!

  14. Dohnal(Wis. Conservtive Digest says:

    The budget has already been passed, you cannot invent money after that has gone through. Barrett and Flynn know that. they need to get ready for 2015 to get into budget.
    But all of these new programs are meaningless cause after the police catch them the judges just let them go. How many people that commit gun crimes are actually in jail in Milw? In Chicago it is 6%. Probably close in Milwaukee. The DA’s never prosecute them and the judges do not put them in jail cause Murphy and others of his ilk believe that there is no such thing as a bad thug.
    They hate the only guy in Milwaukee that points that out, David Clarke.

  15. dohnal(Wis. Conservtive Digest says:

    As for budgets, there is plenty in there if Milwaukee would redo the pensions and healthcare they could protect the citizens. cities were formed to bring basic services: fire, police, streets, lights etc. not big fat social programs, fat pensions systems and bennies for the employees.

  16. john says:

    Love how Dohnal cherry picks his articles. Never a negative comment on articles that deal with his republican pals in Madison. They’re blameless, of course. What a hoot.

  17. East Slider says:

    I nearly always agree with Gov Walker, but I do wish he’d keep some money in for Shotspotter, it sounds like great technology that can really help fight illegal gun violence. What I especially like about it is that it has this mysterious component, they don’t tell you what areas exactly are covered, so as word gets around to all of the lowlifes and thugs that like threatening people with (and shooting) their illegally owned guns, I think it will really scare many of them to know that IF they fire even a single shot, chances are good that within minutes a bunch of squads will show up, even if no one bothers to call 911.

    That having been said, several points need to be added. Dohnal is exactly right when he brings up the fact that thanks to our very liberal judiciary here in Milwaukee County, chances are darn good for the thugs that if they do get caught, even caught red handed, that one of our many bleeding heart liberal judges along with our soft on crime DA’s office will cut them a real nice deal to either serve just a little jail time or none at all! As we’ve seen time and time again, even scumbags with the old “criminal record as long as your arm” get let off easy time and time again. How many times do we have to read ANOTHER article in the JS or here or wherever that details yet another criminal predator out there that get busted for crime after crime after crime (and certainly many, many mores crimes they don’t get caught for!) before the liberals in this community stand up and demand that the liberal judges they always support (usually running unopposed for re-election) start locking up these clowns for long prison sentences?

    Of course, IF that ever does happen and the libs in town get fed up with our ridiculous revolving door justice system, then we’ll see the same people that hold the occasional (and totally useless!) “anti-violence” rallies, start raising a stink about the high percentage of incarceration of African-American males. Of course, this won’t bother me much at all but it will certainly tug on the heart strings of many local libs. Hopefully for all of us, they can resist the temptation for a knee-jerk response on that.

    Getting back to the actual funding for Shotspotter, there is no way you can tell me that there’s not $300,000 of fat that can be cut from the city’s budget to pay for this. I don’t work in city government, but I can certainly bet that there’s a lot more than $300k that could be cut elsewhere with no ill effects. Yet, that would also require a fundamental shift in the way we run local government, from the long-time way of running everything with excess, coddling underperforming employees and just general waste and excess.

    Here’s one glaring example I see over and over in my limited exposure to city government: my work occasionally rehabbing properties takes me to the city “self-help centers” (the dump) fairly often. If you haven’t been to either of the Milwaukee dumps lately, take a field trip sometime and see your tax dollars at work. You’ll see an operation that could without a doubt be run just fine with only a FRACTION of the current staffing level! There’s two dumps, the smaller north side dump and the larger south side dump. At the south side dump, you’ll see all of these men/women “working” at all times the dump is open and for the most part, I’d say that 80% of them are just standing around, hanging out, DOING NOTHING!!! During the colder months, you’ll usually see some of them sitting around a little fire they have going in a fire pit to keep warm, occasionally looking up to glance at the various cars and trucks coming through to drop things off, that’s about it. They’ll have one person at the gate, checking ID’s to make sure you’re a city resident, then you’re sent to another person who tells you which dumpster to dump into. (why these two jobs can’t be combined, I don’t know) I think they usually have someone manning the hazardous waste drop-off station, which I understand the need for and that’s about it. Other than that, you’ll ALWAYS see probably at least TEN other people just standing around, chit chatting with each other, enjoying the nice, warm fire during the winter, etc. Here’s one piece of “going to the dump” advice for everyone too: If you have to go there, make darn sure you get there LONG before the 3pm closing time, because those lazy clowns get really irate when they have to stay even 3 minutes past 3pm! (I’m sure they’re all worn out after another long and hard day of work, hahaha!) I would bet any amount of money that if a private company ran those dumps, they’d have them staffed with 1/4 the amount of staff and you couldn’t tell a bit of difference!

    If the city REALLY wants to fund Shotspotter, they can find the money somewhere! Yet, I’m sure they’d rather play politics and make Walker look bad, rather than just cutting some of the mountains of fat in other areas (like the overstaffed dumps) to pay for it.

  18. jim says:

    watch youtube video “Shot Spotter Technology aka SST Secret Surveillance Tech?How SST uses Propaganda ”

    Mr. Murphy, why do you use the wording you do in this article. SST had nothing to do with nabbing these guys. Read the article.

    This video exposes this company use of propaganda. Notice how this article does the same thing. it quotes here ” The police descended on a house on the block identified by ShotSpotter” go to the source article, as expained in this video. the source article clearly states this. “Witnesses pointed them to a specific house on the block, where police saw a father and his 25-year-old son walking out the front door.”
    Why does shotspotter take credit for this. ?
    Because they use propaganda to make their product look better. Watch the video, Ralph Clark sst president tries to explain himself in the comments, but just digs a deeper hole.

    I also quote milwaukee police saying she has seen the most gun violence in your city in last 7 years. how long has sst been there again.

    Read more from Journal Sentinel:
    Follow us: @NewsHub on Twitter

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us