BALTIMORE (WJZ) — In less than three days, downtown Baltimore will be packed. The Maryland Fleet Week and Air Show will draw hundreds of thousands of visitors to the city. With record crowds, police aren’t taking any chances.
“This isn’t some nefarious intrusion on someone’s privacy, it’s anything but that,” said Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis.
Comm. Davis and the Baltimore City Police Department continue to get slammed with questions over the use of its aerial surveillance program — one the department says will be out in full force for Fleet Week and the air show, despite criticism from privacy advocates.
“We’ve seen the tragedies take place in our country over the past month, and we’re afforded an opportunity to have something in place,” said T.J. Smith, Baltimore City Police Department.
The plane uses a powerful surveillance system to take videos of wide swaths of Baltimore. It’s been under fire since it was uncovered in August.
On Friday, police put on a mock display of the program, reassuring how crucial it is to track suspects after an incident.
“Absent the technology, we would have zero clue that the vehicle made a stop in that location,” said Smith.
Fleet Week and the air show will overlap with the Baltimore Marathon, meaning security must be even tighter.
With Baltimore sitting between New York and D.C., police say it too can be a prime target for terrorists.
“Those same people will not hesitate to travel through Baltimore and attempt to harm Baltimoreans,” Comm. Davis said.
But even with 500,000 visitors expected in Baltimore, many wonder why the crime-fighting tool will be back in the air again, when there has been no public vetting.
“Something being a secret versus something not yet being disclosed or vetted with the community… I think those are different things. I never intended to surprise anyone by this,” said Comm. Davis.
Police say they will use the remainder of the hours for the pilot program throughout next week. Whether or not they will pursue it next year is still being discussed.
Baltimore police say there have been no specific threats made against the city.