Dallas Police Chief U. Reneé Hall said her department is hoping to secure a grant from the Department of Justice to start using technology that can detect gunfire.
Sensors and cameras can quickly help locate the sound of gunshots but the equipment is expensive, with estimates around $100,000 per square mile. Other U.S. cities, such as Chicago and Wilmington, N.C., have adopted the technology. In many areas, the cameras have been credited with curbing crime, according to news reports.
In a meeting with The Dallas Morning News editorial board on Friday, Hall and members of the executive command staff discussed their efforts to tackle violent crime. As part of her five-year plan, Hall conducted listening sessions all over the city to hear from residents.
The most common issue that kept cropping up? Gunfire in neighborhoods.
“It’s a consistent problem,” Hall said.
An unusual violent crime uptick in 2019 struck nearly every major neighborhood in Dallas, leaving residents feeling uneasy and fearful. The city ended the year with more than 200 homicides, a record high since 2007. The month of May alone saw a high of 40 people killed.
Hall said the department’s 2020 crime plan is a “living” document but that police have not needed to make significant changes. Hall said the department’s focus on risk-terrain modeling — an emerging predictive policing technology — has helped police to be more proactive in crime fighting so far this year.
“The officers are bought in,” Hall said, referring to the plan.
According to the police department’s statistics, there have been 22 murders this year compared to 24 at the same time a year ago. Hall said it’s too early to tell how the rest of 2020 may go.
“We are not waving any flags of success,” Hall said, adding that the department is preparing a crime plan for the summer.
Hall said the gunshot-detection technology was not part of the current budget so the department decided to seek grant funding. She said the department submitted the application earlier this month and the process is “very preliminary.”
“We had not asked for that piece of software and technology because we have so many technology needs,” Hall said.
Other cities like Tampa have used the technology, but Hall said reviews appear mixed. One criticism that’s been raised about the cameras is whether such surveillance infringes on privacy rights.
Hall said another issue that has come up with the technology is that camera are needed along with the sensors to help officers establish probable cause to make arrests.
She said that without the cameras, it’s just an “investigative tool” that pinpoints where a shot was fired. But that’s not as effective.
Hall said if the money is secured, there would be a discussion with the City Council about where to place the equipment.