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Baltimore Police met with the community to give insight on pilot program

Posted at 10:18 PM, Mar 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-12 05:26:52-04

BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Police Department held a community meeting for the public to learn about the surveillance plane pilot program coming to the city.

Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, explained to resident at a West Baltimore elementary school why he initially did not support the idea.

A pair of eyes in the sky to fight crime in Baltimore City.

The idea of a surveillance plane has the made the rounds.

It was rejected over privacy concerns, for years.

In a month Baltimore City Police will oversee a pilot program.

It is completely funded by Arnold Ventures and Commissioner Michael Harrison said "no way" initially because of the way it was presented.

His stance changed when they came up with a plan to address people’s privacy concerns and it's a plan the department feels comfortable trying.

With a homicide rate over 300 5 years in a row people in Baltimore are desperate for solutions but still critical of surveillance planes flying over the city.

“Because we are in a great crisis doesn’t mean that every solution is a solution,” said lifelong Baltimore resident Walker Gladden. “At this point I’m being open minded.”

Harrison has his own issues with the idea of becoming the first US city to use the system, but he's willing to see the data and make a decision.

“Treat it like a scientific experiment we will try it as a pilot,” Harrison said. “Create safeguards, measures of accountability, and transparency and bringing in external researchers and auditing to make sure the research will guide us to whether it works or not.”

The system will focus strictly on violent crimes.

It can only be used if a crime has already happened for an investigative look back.

Right now there will only be one plane— but Harrison expects there to be more.

They will fly a minimum of 40 hours a week— and will cover about 90% of the city.

The commisioner said the resolution of the images will only be sharp enough to track the movement of a small dot—- not specific people.

David Rocah with the ACLU of Maryland is fiercely against the surveillance plane and says the claim that it doesn’t identify people isn’t true.

“Following a pixel on a screen if it couldn’t identify someone would be an utter and complete waste of time and money,” Rocah said. “The only reason that this technology exists is to identify people.”

There will be two public meetings over the next two weeks including next Monday at 6:30pm at Morgan State and next Thursday at Green Street Academy at 6:30.

This will be up to a 180 day trial that Commissioner Harrison expects to start in April.

Now, he is giving the pilot program a shot with safeguards and conditions that were agreed on.

The pilot program will run 180 days and the commissioner hopes to start next month. Currently, there is one plane they will fly a minimum of 40 hours a week— will cover about 90% of the study.

The resolution will only be able to track the movement of a small dot—- not specific people and will be recorded and not real time.

Commissioner Harrison says only for investigative “look-back”.