Baltimore officials pitched three surveillance planes in the sky at once, covering most of city

The head of an aerial surveillance company is pitching Baltimore officials on flying not one but three camera-laden planes above the city simultaneously, covering most of the city and its violent crime, he said in emails obtained by The Baltimore Sun.

A pair of Texas donors have stepped forward to help fund three planes and extra police, 40 local analysts and oversight personnel if there is city buy-in, the records and interviews show. The effort aims to “demonstrate the effectiveness” of such an all-seeing surveillance system in fighting crime in the city.

The enlarged scope of the three-year, $6.6 million surveillance pitch was welcomed by supporters and denounced by detractors contacted by The Sun.

Ross McNutt of Ohio-based Persistent Surveillance Systems said in emails to officials in Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young’s office that most City Council members had expressed their support for the surveillance planes, though several council members denied it. No decision has been made.

Each plane would be capable of recording up to 32 square miles at a time, and each would fly 45 to 50 hours a week, McNutt said.

“With these three coverage areas, we would be able to cover areas that include 80 to 90 percent of the murders and shootings in Baltimore,” McNutt wrote in an email last month to Sheryl Goldstein, Young’s deputy chief of staff.

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