Surveillance plan was not a secret, Baltimore police say

Posted at 11:28 PM, Aug 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-25 06:27:06-04

The chief spokesman for Baltimore police insists that a trial program in which a manned plane with cameras flies over the city and feeds information to law enforcement was not a secret.

T.J. Smith told reporters at a news conference Wednesday that the program, first reported Tuesday by Bloomberg Businessweek, was another potential tool in the department's crime-fighting arsenal.

RELATED: Baltimore Police defend aerial surveillance program

Smith said the program is a test between the department and Persistent Surveillance Systems, a company that wants to sell the service to Baltimore.

The ACLU of Maryland expressed outrage at the program, saying in a statement it's "a privacy nightmare come to life."

City Councilman Brandon Scott, vice chair of the council's public safety committee said he was not aware of the program's existence until reading the Bloomberg report.

Scott said he would speak with the committee's chairman, Councilman Warren Branch, about holding hearings on the program.

"The important part is how do we strike that balance, how we're not being intrusive into people's privacy, how are we not falling along the same lines of the things that we have seen in (Department of Justice) report," he said. 

Smith, pressed by reporters to explain why the privately funded program was unknown until the Bloomberg report, compared the plane to Baltimore's hundreds of CitiWatch cameras.

ABC2's Dakarai Turner contributed to this report