The police commissioner in Baltimore City has announced plans for a pilot program of surveillance planes to begin next year.

Police in Baltimore City may soon have another resource to fight violent crime in the city. On Friday, December 20, Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison announced the launch of a special pilot program that will utilize surveillance planes. Planes would fly over the city to monitor and record incidences of violent crime in Baltimore City. The data and information collected could then be used to determine strategies to prevent and solve crime.

This won’t be the first time surveillance planes are flying over the city. In 2016, police were criticized for conducting a similar program without informing the public. The program was terminated after it drew swift condemnation from privacy advocates and the Office of the Public Defender in Baltimore.

This new pilot program will run for 120 to 180 days starting in May of 2020. Commissioner Harrison worked with the plane’s operator to determine a set of guidelines that will be both effective and protect the privacy of residents. Surveillance will only be used to investigate serious crimes like murder and armed robbery, and video will not be live-streamed. The police department will not have direct access to the video or data that is collected. At the conclusion of the program, the data will be analyzed to determine its effectiveness.

Taxpayer dollars will not be used to fund the pilot program. Instead, the department will look to philanthropic organizations for funding.

The city will also hold a series of public meetings in order for the public to ask questions about how and when the planes will operate. Commissioner Harrison said the planes are just another possible tool law enforcement could use to battle violent crime in the city. 

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