The US city of Baltimore, Maryland is deploying camera-equipped planes to spy on its citizens.
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Misbar's investigation shows that the surveillance program was also reported on by news sites including CBS and the New York Times.
On April 30, 2020, the Baltimore Business Journal reported that camera-equipped surveillance planes will fly around Baltimore skies as part of a half-year pilot program. The planes, operated by Ohio-based Persistent Surveillance Systems, are intended to help fight crime. Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said, “I remain cautiously optimistic about the potential of this program and will allow the data to show us the efficacy of this technology as a potential tool for the Department in solving and reducing violent crime.” The planes will take low-quality pictures from between 8,000 to 10,000 feet for approximately 40 hours a week, primarily intended to help police investigate violent crimes as part of evidence packages, not real-time policing. They will fly over about 32 square miles. On April 1, the Baltimore Board of Estimates approved the agreement for the Aerial Investigation Research program. While many Baltimore business leaders pushed for the program, the ACLU of Maryland opposed the idea as violating residents’ constitutional rights to privacy. The civil rights organization said that the program “would be the most wide-reaching surveillance dragnet ever employed in an American city.”
However, since the planes are only being used to retroactively review violent crimes, they are not actively being used to spy on citizens.