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Surveillance Plane Creator To Meet With BPD Commissioner Harrison In Renewed Push To Get Plane Back In The Sky

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A surveillance plane could be flying over the skies of Baltimore once again.

The plane was first used in 2016 as part of a test program that the Baltimore Police Department kept secret.

The creator of the plane explained that it works together with the cameras we see on the street to solve otherwise unsolvable crimes.

And he's hoping that the Baltimore police commissioner signs off on his technology.

Persistent Surveillance Systems owner, Ross McNutt showed WJZ images from his surveillance plane from the last time it flew over Baltimore.

"By taking that picture every second, we're able to go back in time to where crimes occur and follow people to and from a crime scene." McNutt said.

He first brought his technology to Baltimore in 2016. But many people- including elected officials, were angry to learn that as part of its "pilot test", the police department was flying the plane in secret.


So, the project was put on hold.

But with a renewed effort to get these planes back in the air, there is a concern for some about privacy.

"This is a solution that's promising but cannot be done without real restrictions from a legal perspective, from a constitutional perspective, from a privacy perspective," said mayoral candidate Thiru Vignarajah.

The plane works in conjunction with Citistreet cameras, and McNutt said it's limited to one pixel per person.

"I can't see anyone. I can only find these little dots as they run away from the crime scene jump into a car and then speed across the city where they are going." McNutt said.

The camera will fly 32 square miles over the City of Baltimore. And its creator predicts it will reduce the murder rate by 20 to 30 percent and serve as a deterrent to violent crime.

It would be funded by Texas philanthropists and billionaires John and Laura Arnold.

They have pledged to pay for multiple planes to fly over the city, extra police officers to support them and oversight for three years.

That's around $8 million free to taxpayers.

"It's a way for local law enforcement to keep a better eye on the community," said resident Brenda Letterlough.

Letterlough is a Baltimore native and says this plan has a lot of potential.

"It's a way for us to feel more assured and feel more safe," Letterlough said. "It's something always watching over you,"

Ross McNutt will be meeting with Commissioner Michael Harrison on Monday and he said this will be the first time the commissioner sees how this technology works.

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