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Portland mayor to propose pilot program for gunshot detection technology

Mayor Ted Wheeler and his team will put together a proposal to bring to council. The council will have the final say on whether the technology is used in Portland.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Mayor Ted Wheeler is interested in launching the gunshot detection technology ShotSpotter on a trial basis, in the hope the technology could help quell the gun violence in Portland.

The mayor approved the idea of putting together a pilot proposal for ShotSpotter last week. ShotSpotter is a system of audio sensors that alert police to where and when shots are fired. The sensors are typically mounted on buildings or light posts in neighborhoods that see a lot of violence.

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Proponents believe ShotSpotter would help police respond to more shootings, improve response times and evidence gathering, among other things. Critics, however, say ShotSpotter is incredibly flawed.

"Chances are these are going to be set up in neighborhoods that are heavily policed or have stereotypes of being crime heavy and it's going to be over-policing and probably perpetuate the biases that already exist among Black and brown communities," attorney Kat Mahoney said.

A Portland police oversight group called the Focused Intervention Team Community Oversight Group first recommended the technology to Mayor Wheeler in July. In its recommendation, it determine that the city's leaders should pay for and use the sensors throughout all areas of Portland representing high-risk areas for gun violence based on crime data.

"I wouldn't call it over-policing," said Ed Williams, the chair of the oversight group. "I'd say we've been underserved. We're underserved given the number of shooting incidents that are happening in the Black and brown communities."

Once the pilot proposal is complete, it will go to the city council for a vote. The council will have the final say on whether the technology is used in Portland on a trial basis.

RELATED: If Portland approves ShotSpotter, how would alerts be used in criminal prosecution?

Since the start of the year, Portland has seen more than 960 shootings and more than 60 people have died. The most recent deaths occurred this weekend, where two people where shot and killed in two separate shootings: one at Wallace Park in Northwest Portland late Friday night, the other outside a hotel in Northeast Portland.

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