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Call for surveillance plane cameras over Baltimore

Safeguards proposed to protect citizens’ rights
Posted at 6:23 PM, Oct 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-15 03:26:36-04

BALTIMORE — Desperate times may require desperate actions, and a group outside Baltimore City Hall on Monday said it hopes a single day filled with violence over the weekend is the tipping point.

"A murder, the shooting of a two-year-old boy, a double, two triples and a quadruple. That is unacceptable. That was Saturday,” said Mayoral Candidate Thiru Vignarajah, “If it happened in Annapolis, if it happened in Frederick, if it happened in Silver Spring, we would send the 101st Airborne Division in."

But the group will settle for three Cessna aircraft equipped with aerial cameras to help police catch killers.

Thus far, Baltimore's top cop has been non-committal on an offer to put the eye in the sky at no charge for three years.

"It's paid for by a foundation with all the bells and whistles, and it tracks crime and it gets convictions,” said Former City Councilwoman Rikki Spector. “I don't know what else to do."

The department used the cameras secretly for months before word leaked out and the planes were grounded three years ago.

This time, proponents are willing to add safeguards such as limiting the use of the cameras to murders, non-fatal shooting and carjackings, as well as a requirement to obtain warrants and the creation of an oversight board.

Critics, like the ACLU of Maryland, say no matter what promises are made, it would still violate citizens 4th amendment rights.

"This was a bad idea when it was done in secret. It was a bad idea when it was first revealed. It has been a bad idea since then,” said David Rocah. “It is still a bad idea, and that is why there is not a single city anywhere in the United States that has accepted Ross McNutt's Orwellian offer to get paid by some billionaires in Texas to vacuum up data about where everyone in that city goes all of the time."

Opponents also challenge the aerial surveillance system's effectiveness, but it's clear as the murder count mounts each year, many of the victims' families are willing to try it at almost any cost.

Victory Swift’s son died in March of 2017.

"If it can save your family's life or your family's life or your family's life, what would it be worth?" she asked.