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Baltimore’s Surveillance Complex Is Envy of Police Worldwide

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Police droneby David Fishman, The Christian Science Monitor

For up to 10 hours a day, a Cessna propeller plane circled the city of Baltimore, secretly monitoring about 600,000 people, capturing their movements and transmitting the data to private security analysts.

Operated by a firm called Persistent Surveillance Systems, the small plane circled 8,500 feet above ground snapping wide-angle images of citizens represented as one-pixel dots on computer screens below.

“One pixel per person allows me to follow a dot, which usually goes a block or so, jumps into a car and drives off,” says Ross McNutt, whose company assisted Baltimore police in a trial program earlier this year. “We follow the people and vehicles to and from crime scenes.”

That program, first reported by Bloomberg in August, has since ended. Police spokesman T.J. Smith says the department last operated planes on October 15, monitoring a major naval event and the Baltimore marathon. Since then, “police departments from around the world” have contacted the city to express interest in the aerial program and determine its effectiveness, says Smith, who declined to specify which ones.

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© 2017 The Christian Science Monitor

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