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Some Believe Return Of Surveillance Plane Will Deter Crime, Police Corruption In Baltimore

BALTIMORE (WJZ)-- The recent shootings are among the crimes some community activists believe could be solved with more eyes watching the streets.

The controversial private plane that once flew over Baltimore, taking pictures of the entire city, could be making a comeback.

While privacy advocates are alarmed, some community activists say Baltimore needs the eyes in the sky to fight crime

It's gaining support as a way to keep an eye on police to stop police brutality and corruption. Advocates believe it could also stop crime with powerful cameras that beam images to an office near police headquarters.

"The deterrent of knowing that you're being watched," Baltimore resident Joyous Jones said. "It will get some of the bad guys off the street."

The plane stopped flying after a test in 2016 amid complaints it was launched in secret. This time around, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh is open to it and a more transparent process.

"We don't want people to feel like is that we're being invasive," Mayor Pugh said. "Here's the reality; we have cameras up all around the city."

The pitch that sold Archie Williams, a backer who was once skeptical.

"There's a distrust in the city. It could stop police corruption," Williams said. "We want change, but we want to feel like we're protected. We don't feel like we're protected with blue and red lights no more."

Persistence Surveillance Systems operates the plane and says private funding is lined up for the first year. They'll provide the service at cost, about $1.6 million, after the first year. They're hoping Baltimore could be a model for expanding across America.

"Baltimore would be on the forefront of new technology," Jones said. "There are cameras everywhere we go."

The ACLU accused the operator of trying to profit off of the trauma of the city, calling it the technical equivalent of a GPS monitor on every person in Baltimore.

The ACLU went on to say they are disappointed and disturbed that the mayor would consider bringing the plane back. The mayor has said there would be a city council meeting before anything is finalized.

The plane captures images 32 square miles at a time. It's been used in the past to watch large events like the Baltimore Marathon.

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