(TNS) — The Worcester, Mass., Police Department agreed to adopt a program that introduces artificial intelligence into patrolling in December while the city council continues to debate whether it should be implemented.

The agreement to expand ShotSpotter to include its Connect program was signed on Dec. 31, according to emails obtained by MassLive through public records request and first reported by Patch.

According to a city spokesperson, City Manager Edward Augustus Jr. delayed the implementation of the program until the council reaches a decision. The contract can be amended if the council opts to remove the program, the city said.

ShotSpotter Connect uses computer-aided dispatch and artificial intelligence analysis to produce “crime forecasts” allowing police departments to plan patrols and often described as predictive policing. According to emails, the Worcester Police Department adopted the Connect program as part of discussions to expand ShotSpotter program, which uses acoustic sensors to alert officers of gunfire in the city,

ShotSpotter Connect uses crime events, temporal cycles and geographic variables to “produce high probability crime forecasts.”

It first reached the city council on Jan. 19. An item from Augustus requests $148,550 for expansion of the ShotSpotter program that would increase its footprint by 2.6 square miles in the city but also expand its services to ShotSpotter Connect.

By enrolling in the ShotSpotter Connect program, Worcester would receive one free square mile of coverage, which is part of the city’s proposed 2.6 miles expansion.

Rather than approving the item in January, the city council agreed to further discuss ShotSpotter Connect in the Committee of Public Safety and within the Worcester community at large before voting on ShotSpotter Connect.

The program was also discussed on Feb. 1 during the Committee on Public Safety meeting. In the meeting, the committee requested Augustus reach out to Black Families Together, NAACP, Worcester Interfaith and Latino Empowerment Organizing Network to arrange communities meetings about ShotSpotter Connect.

It also requested that Augustus to work with ShotSpotter to find details on what data is collected with the Connect program and to answer questions raised during the meeting.

According to emails, ShotSpotter and the Worcester Police Department began discussing the Connect program in October.

The discussion continued to Dec. 31, when the contract was signed. To receive the one free square mile, WPD had to enroll in Connect by Dec. 31.

The cost for year one of the program is $148,550 with year two jumping to about $193,000, the emails said.

In the emails, ShotSpotter representatives said with an agreement reached in 2020, payment timeline detail could be arranged in 2021.

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