Name changes and diversified sources of funding are different ways that private companies have marketed their products to cities, even in the face of setbacks, reports The Marshall Project. Last month, the gunshot-detection technology provider ShotSpotter changed its name to SoundThinking. ShotSpotter changed its name in April, shortly after the company’s stock lost about a third of its value after Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson’s election. Johnson promised to end the city’s deal with the company as part of his public safety plan. The company says its gunshot-detection system uses acoustic sensors to locate possible gunfire sounds. In 2021, Chicago’s inspector general found that in about 90% of the incidents where police responded to a ShotSpotter alert, officers didn’t classify it as a gun crime.
Chicago police have credited ShotSpotter’s detection with faster officer response to shootings. ShotSpotter told Associated Press last year that the evidence it collects, along with its expert witnesses, have been admitted in 200 court cases in 20 states, and survived dozens of evidentiary challenges. However, in Seattle, a city council member cited the Chicago inspector general report in deciding against funding ShotSpotter. Yet a growing number of locations have adopted the technology. In annual reports, the company said it had customers in 88 cities at the end of 2017 and over 151 cities at the end of last year. In many cases, SoundThinking’s recent growth is fueled by money from the pandemic-relief economic stimulus passed in 2021. Police foundations have also helped departments pay for technologies like gunshot detection. Such foundations helped pay for initial installations of the technology in Atlanta and Cleveland.