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Baltimore Police Department Releases Preliminary Report On Aerial Surveillance Program

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- One day after the ACLU of Maryland argued against Baltimore's aerial surveillance program, the city's police department released a preliminary report outlining how the data collected from the planes has been used.

The six-month program, which is being privately funded, began with one plane covering 30% of the city in May. In July, a second plane took to the skies, doubling coverage to 60%. A third plane launched in September.

All of the planes fly only during the day.


Of the 121 homicides that happened citywide between May 1 and August 20, only 17 happened during flight hours and within the coverage range of the planes, the report found.

The program worked on a total of 22 homicide cases, including supplemental requests. Of those, seven were provisionally closed and six were provisionally closed with an arrest.

During that period, the program increased the percentage of homicide cases closed. The percent of cases closed using air evidence was just under 32%, compared to 18% of those without the program.

The percent of homicide cases closed with arrests also increased, with 27% of cases using air evidence leading to an arrest compared to 16% without air evidence.

When including other crimes under the purview of the program, including shootings, armed robberies and carjackings, the provisional closure rate dropped slightly to 24% but was still higher than the 18% closure rate without air evidence.

While closure rates involving the program are higher, the report said it does not have enough data to make a definitive conclusion on clearance rates.

In total, air evidence was used in 107 cases out of a total of 874.

The police department also said it has received 63 complaints about the program, including 43 about noise and 17 "programmatic concerns."

The ACLU argues the program violates the First and Fourth Amendment rights of Baltimore citizens, though the police department has argued it cannot conduct real-time surveillance.

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