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Commissioner Harrison announces 2020 surveillance planes pilot program

Posted at 12:22 PM, Dec 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-20 17:13:26-05

BALTIMORE — Police Commissioner Michael Harrison held a press conference on Friday to announce a 2020 pilot program using surveillance planes in Baltimore.

The initiative slated to launch in May 2020 will use surveillance planes in an effort to solve and deter homicides, non-fatal shootings and robberies including carjackings. It is expected to last between 120 and 180 days.

There will be a series of public meetings for Baltimoreans to voice their concerns and ask questions about the use of the surveillance planes and pilot program.

Commissioner Harrison specified that the planes will not be used for real-time surveillance, assuring that there will be no live feeds. Baltimore Police will not be able to directly access the plane’s video feeds instead Police will be provided evidence packages that directly relate to incidents that have already been reported.

Officials say there will be an independent civilian auditing team to review BPD’s use of the footage to ensure they are maintaining privacy standards.

The program will not be funded with taxpayer dollars instead being funded by philanthropic efforts.

After reviewing the effectiveness of the surveillance planes, officials will decide if they should continue use.

Harrison says the program could be “another tool in the toolbox to solve and deter violent crimes in our city” and promised the initiative will be subject to great scrutiny before its launch.

Mayor Jack Young said this of the incoming program, "I fully support Commissioner Michael Harrison as he explores additional resources to aid the Baltimore Police Department in its efforts to reduce crime in our city. At my direction, Commissioner Harrison consulted with the Department of Justice prior to moving forward with an exploratory phase. Any efforts we pursue have to comply with our federal Consent Decree. Reducing crime, most importantly violent crime, remains a top priority of mine. The process the Commissioner has outlined is transparent and includes necessary community engagement and auditing functions."

You can view the entire press conference below: