Log in Newsletter

Fayetteville council agrees to put gunshot technology on Nov. 14 agenda

Members remain divided on whether to pursue contract with ShotSpotter


The Fayetteville City Council on Monday night remained divided on whether to more forward with adding gunshot detection technology for the Police Department but agreed to take up the matter at its next monthly meeting.

Monday’s meeting was a work session, where no final action can be taken.

The issue of “gunshots fired” technology is expected to be on the agenda when the council meets Nov. 14 in regular session.

Mayor Mitch Colvin and Councilman Mario Benavente both submitted agenda requests related to the controversial technology for discussion on Monday.

Colvin asked that the council put a contract with ShotSpotter on the Nov. 14 agenda. Colvin’s request included a requirement that the Police Department and ShotSpotter host community meetings to explain the program to the public.

At a Sept. 26 meeting, a motion by Benavente to table the matter until an Oct. 22 work session failed on a 6-4 vote.

Councilman Derrick Thompson then made a motion that the city pursue a contract with ShotSpotter, which is based in Fremont, California. That motion also failed, on a 5-5 vote.

“And so, right now it’s in limbo,” Colvin said Monday evening. “I’ve had conversations with certain council members who had concerns with public forums and the public being able to have input. There was also conversation and recommendation by Councilman Mario Benavente to talk about the contract terms — the length of the terms and some other things. This is just to move this, favorably or not, if there was consensus to move this to another meeting.

“That’s why I brought it back tonight,” Colvin said. “Whatever happens happens.”

Your support helps ensure a more informed community. Donate today.

Councilman D.J. Haire said he still supports adding the technology despite that ShotSpotter “may not be 100%.”

Benavente said if the issue is put back on the regular agenda, he will request city staff members to provide details on when the public forums would be scheduled. 

“My proposal is we have two in-person and one virtual (meeting),” he said. "And I had another council member who said they wanted that to work within 30 days, deciding whether or not to do that. Whatever the calendar looks like for staff, I want them to be able to come back during our regular council meeting and see what that looks like. These are dates that would actually work if you want to do two in-person and one virtual.”

Benavente said he also wants more information about ShotSpotter.

“Because for me, it’s not about having a program that’s 100% perfect. That’s never been my concern,” he said. “My concern is that there are pros to this and there are cons to this. “It could help in some ways; it could also hurt in many ways.”

Councilman Deno Hondros said he would prefer that the town-hall meetings be held before a contract is executed with ShotSpotter.

“We’re talking about spending $200,000 annually for this technology,” Hondros said. “Yes, it’s another tool in the toolbox on the toolbelt, but it’s not guaranteed that it works. Perhaps that money is better spent on some of these other items.”

Benavente then moved that the matter be put on the agenda for the council’s next meeting. The motion was approved by consensus.

In a related matter, Benavente called for the council to consider a public safety analysis that was submitted to the council in August and recommends 13 “action items.” The report was based on the work of Aqeela Sherrills and Elizabeth Reuben’s team to bolster public safety in New Jersey through the Newark Street Team.

“We contracted these people originally to do a landscape analysis. So, we’ve worked with them already,” Benavente said. “They’re not selling us anything that we didn’t ask for in the first place. So, I’m just asking council to move on to Phase 2.”

Benavente’s motion was approved by consensus and will be on the Nov. 14 agenda.

Benavente said the city should have an office of community safety like those in Raleigh, Durham and Greensboro.

“The importance of this is that we already realize that the Police Department can't do everything,” he said. “In fact, it may not be best suited to address all the issues that we have in our community. We need someone dedicated to all the gaps in the ways that we operate, not just how it relates to law enforcement, but how it relates to public safety at large."

An office of community safety would be able to do more pro-active work to stem crime, Benavente said.

Benavente's motion on this item failed on a 5-5 vote.

Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView. He can be reached at mfutch@cityviewnc.com.

Fayetteville, City Council, crime, public safety