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ACLU Takes Argument Against Baltimore's Aerial Surveillance Plane Program To Court

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- The ACLU of Maryland argued again in court Thursday against Baltimore City's privately-funded aerial surveillance program.

The six-month pilot program has been flying since April when it was approved by the City's Board of Estimates. Its engine is often a constant sound heard in the sky.

"It's an audible reminder of the fact that everyone in Baltimore is under constant video surveillance any time they go outside," David Rocah, of the ACLU of Maryland, said.

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The ACLU is arguing on behalf of the Leaders Of a Beautiful Struggle and Baltimore Ceasefire. They say the program violates the First and Fourth Amendment rights of Baltimore citizens.

Judges pointed out how individuals show up as one-pixel per-picture.

"It is the technological equivalent of having a police officer follow you every time you walk out the door of your house," Rocah said.

The city argued in district court the contractor can not conduct real-time surveillance. It's only after a specific violent crime that images can be reviewed for the purpose of the investigation.

"It will not be a live feed, but rather historical data where detectives can go back and connect the dots on a case," Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said in December 2019.

Out-of-state philanthropists, who selected Baltimore based on its challenge solving crime, are funding the program.

"The people who are funding it have sought to exploit Baltimore and folks in Baltimore's fear of crime as the justification for using Baltimore as the guinea pig for this type of technology," Rocah said.

Baltimore City Police say the program provided evidence in more than 100 cases.

A review will be released on Friday morning.

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