For the past six months, tiny microphones have been recording gunshots across San Antonio’s Eastside—and alerting police to their location. Police have yet to reveal just how successful this technology, called ShotSpotter, has been at combatting crime. But in the meantime, District 2 Councilman Alan Warrick has been using the tool to track a side effect of the violence it’s tracking: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
“Some of the people in these neighborhoods have heard more gunshots than people returning from Iraq,” Warrick told the Current. “They say they are used to it. That they don’t notice it anymore. But it carries over the rest of their life.”
Warrick says ShotSpotter has helped his office pinpoint which neighborhoods—and even single city blocks—in his district are most affected by gun violence. Instead of simply giving the residents an address to a distant mental health care provider, Warrick says his office has secured grant funding to bring the care directly to people in these neighborhoods come January. He doesn’t know exactly what that will look like yet, but says the Center for Health Care Services, a local mental health care nonprofit, is interested in playing a part.
Warrick says that currently, police who respond to ShotSpotter alerts leave fliers at houses near where gunfire was detected, letting people know who to call if they have information about the shooting—and what to do if their house was damaged by it. Soon, Warrick said, these fliers will include information about mental health resources.
Warrick’s concern isn’t unwarranted. Studies out of Chicago, Detroit, and Atlanta have found that nearly half of the residents living in high-crime neighborhoods had developed severe PTSD—comparable to veterans just returning from war. But has it gotten that bad on the Eastside?
It’s hard to say, according to Warrick, simply because some people in the area don't make regular doctor's visits.
“You have to understand, this is a community without many health services nearby,” Warrick said. “Few may even be aware that PTSD applies to them—that it’s not just for the military.”
Not everyone thinks this is the most effective use of the Warrick’s time, especially when it comes to neighborhood crime.
"The people in our community, they're about the sidewalks, streets, crime, and better lighting," said Rose Hill, president of the Government Hill Neighborhood Association, recently told News 4 San Antonio. She said she hadn’t heard of anyone having problems with PTSD in the neighborhood.
So far, ShotSpotter has recorded 200 gunshots in District 2 since April. If these numbers came from downtown San Antonio, by the Riverwalk, Warrick said, “they’d send tanks and helicopters down there.”
“We don’t want to normalize crime in this neighborhood. People should know we’re paying attention,” he said. “Every neighborhood should be as safe as the Riverwalk.”