The city of Baltimore will be monitored by surveillance airplanes for up to six months next year under a pilot program announced Friday that is aimed at helping law enforcement investigate violent crime and that will effectively restart a tactic secretively used three years ago.
The flights, which civil liberties groups oppose, will start in May and gather footage during the hours when the city experiences high rates of crime. The announcement marks a reversal for Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, who previously expressed skepticism over the use of the planes and described the idea as an “untested” crime-fighting strategy.
“We will be the first American city to use this technology in an attempt to solve and deter violent crime,” Harrison said at a news conference. He said he believes they could prove to be “yet another tool” to fight the violence plaguing the city.
The three planes will fly simultaneously, covering about 90 percent of the city, said Baltimore police spokesman Matt Jablow. The resolution of the footage won’t be sharp enough for officers to identify faces, but should help them track movement and action.