Wow, is chasing random gunfire really productive? 16,000 reports means that the percentage of actual crime and injuries must be very small, akin to chasing car alarms.

12:00 AM CDT on Tuesday, April 22, 2008

By DAVE LEVINTHAL and TANYA EISERER / The Dallas Morning News

With Dallas police having fielded more than 16,000 reports of random gunfire last year, the City Council's public safety committee on Monday directed staff to explore an automated gunfire detection system.

Details of the pilot program are incomplete, but committee members asked staff to move forward and report back to them throughout the year.

Police officials told council members that a system of sensors to detect and locate gunfire by sight or sound would cost up to $275,000 per square mile. Dallas is more than 384 square miles in size, meaning the cost to cover the entire city would be up to $105.6 million.

Because it would be cost-prohibitive to cover every square mile of the city, several council members suggested that a mobile gunfire detection system could be used in neighborhoods with historically high incidence of gunfire.

Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway, who has been a big supporter of the idea, said he wants to send a message to criminals that "we have the technology in place to catch you."

No council members openly opposed the idea, but some questioned whether it would provide the best bang for the buck. Council member Jerry Allen said he was open to the concept but wondered if it would lead to "chasing rabbits."

Cities including Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis and Washington, D.C., have implemented gunfire detection systems or pilot programs, reporting varying degrees of success.

"Generally speaking, they like the system," police Lt. Sally Lannom said. "But it does not live up to what the manufacturer says it does.";