North Side alderman wrongly claims her ward has ShotSpotter and says it doesn’t work

Ald. Angela Clay (46th) and a ShotSpotter device. (46th Ward, Salisburymistake)

CHICAGO — A North Side alderman whose ward does not host a single ShotSpotter device recently told a community meeting something different: that her ward does have ShotSpotter, and it recently failed to work. Unfortunately for Ald. Angela Clay (46th), of Uptown, CWBChicago had ears in the audience that day.

To Clay’s credit, her office today conceded that she was mistaken. The malfunctioning device was not a ShotSpotter. It was a Chicago police surveillance camera, maintained by the Office of Emergency Management and Communications.

Clay joined many North Side aldermen in voting against a pro-ShotSpotter order that passed the City Council in a landslide last month. As CWBChicago reported, most aldermen from wards with ShotSpotter devices voted for the order, while most opponents were from wards without the gunfire detection technology.

Clay was joined at a recent Chamber of Commerce meeting by another North Side colleague who voted against the ShotSpotter order, Ald. Matt Martin (47th). Martin represents some of the safest areas in the entire city, including North Center. They don’t have any ShotSpotters there.

An audience member asked essentially the same question we posed in a story last month: Why don’t North Side aldermen want South Siders to have ShotSpotter?

Martin explained that his vote was not an effort to keep the city’s most violence-ridden wards from having a tool they want. He said he voted against it because he felt the order’s language would require City Council approval for every change to ShotSpotter deployments. That’s an inappropriate level of minutia, he argued.

Clay echoed Martin and said the city needs better data about the gunshot detection devices. She went on to claim that her ward does, in fact, have ShotSpotter, and it doesn’t work.

“From my neck of the woods, we do have ShotSpotter,” Clay told the group. “When I asked for the data, there was none. I actually had a shooting that happened just over a month ago directly under a ShotSpotter that wasn’t on. It wasn’t working, and we didn’t know that until the shooting happened, and we had no data to go off of.”

A screenshot of the city’s data portal shows there has never been a ShotSpotter alert in the 46th Ward. That’s because there are no ShotSpotters there.

In fact, the nearest ShotSpotter to Clay’s ward is several miles away.

On Monday, in response to an inquiry from CWBChicago, her office set the record straight:

“The Alderwoman was referring to the shooting that took place on Wilson & Broadway on May 7th, directly under a pod camera that we later found out was not in service and continues to be out of service. Apologies for the confusion in technology stated at the forum,” Clay’s representative wrote.

Good on Clay for taking a deep breath and conceding the truth. It would have been very easy for her office to simply ignore the issue. We are pleased that she chose the better path.

Previous reporting

Critics of the ShotSpotter system insist that it is inaccurate and ineffective. Some say it is racist. Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx claimed that ShotSpotter does not contribute significantly to firearms-related prosecutions in the city.

Our team reads hundreds of Chicago police reports every week. We can say with certainty that ShotSpotter alerts routinely result in the arrests of armed men—and they’re almost always men—after shots are fired in the city. This series includes cases we happened to come across during our work. It is not an exhaustive list of every ShotSpotter case filed.

Original reporting you’ll see nowhere else, paid for by our readers. Click here to support our work.

About Tim Hecke 363 Articles
Tim Hecke is CWBChicago's managing partner. He started his career at KMOX, the legendary news radio station in St. Louis. From there, he moved on to work at stations in Minneapolis, Chicago, and New York City. Tim went on to build syndicated radio news and content services that served every one of America's 100 largest radio markets. He became CWBChicago's managing partner in 2019. His email address is tim@cwbchicago.com