If the tree drama wasn’t enough bad publicity for Oncor, now Oak Cliff neighbors are accusing the utility of thwarting crime prevention. The City paid $25,000 for a 90-day test of a high-tech gunshot detection system called ShotSpotter, which can identify and pinpoint gunshots and immediately notify police. Other cities, including San Francisco and New Orleans, use the technology, which supposedly has saved 500 lives in five years.

City officials wanted to test ShotSpotter in a 1-square-mile area of Oak Cliff. But Oncor won’t let the company install the system on its power poles unless the makers agree to take responsibility for any damages to the poles. And the folks at ShotSpotter don’t want to do that. So it’s looking like the deal’s not going to happen.

Random gunfire, especially when it sounds close to your home and children, certainly is frightening. I talked to neighbors who say they call 911 every time they hear gunfire, and that the response time often is slow becuase there are so many steps from the time they dial 911 and when patrol cars get the message.

More after the jump.

But this ShotSpotter costs $250,000 per square mile. Dallas comprises 385 square miles. If city officials wanted to cover just the 10 square miles south of the Trinity River, it would cost $2.5 million. It’s hard to argue against a system that claims to save lives. And no politician wants to be perceived as soft on crime. Of course $250,000 would be spent well if it could save just one life or prevent one serious injury. But if the city has buckets of money to spend on crime prevention, I think we should be exploring how to best spend that money, not just biting at sales pitches.

Maybe next year, or the year after, when Dallas isn’t slashing budgets, we should revisit expensive high-tech ways to prevent crime. And then we can try to fight Oncor.