BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The surveillance plane that flew over Baltimore could be making a comeback.
The owner of Persistent Surveillance Systems said Tuesday he is meeting with Baltimore City Police Commissioner Michael Harrison next week.
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“The current mayor has said if the police commissioner wants it, he should be allowed to have it,” McNutt told WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren. “We hope that when the commissioner sees what we do, and how effective we are, that he would be very supportive of it.”
McNutt said the plane would be free to taxpayers.
It’s being funded by a grant from John and Laura Arnold, who also funded the plane three years ago. The cost is estimated at more than two million dollars a year for three years.
The Arnolds would also pay for extra officers and oversight.
McNutt said one plane covers approximately one-third of Baltimore. The grant would cover three planes.
Police spokesman Matt Jablow wrote in an email, “The commissioner has no plans whatsoever to bring back the surveillance plane.”
Jablow did not comment on the meeting, which McNutt said was coordinated by the Greater Baltimore Committee.
McNutt invited the public to learn more about the plane at his office at 3 S. Frederick Street, 8th Floor in downtown Baltimore on Sunday at 3pm. The office is behind police headquarters near Port Discovery.
“Our objective is to reduce major crime by 20-30 percent within the first year. When you look at the numbers, that’s 70 to 100 people not being murdered,” McNutt said. “We would see most of the murders in Baltimore from the plane. You don’t have to solve them all because it’s a small number of people who are committing the vast majority of them, and if we can remove that small number, we can have a dramatic impact on crime.”
Some elected officials were angry during the pilot test of the plane in 2016 because the police department flew it in secret. The ACLU also spoke out about privacy concerns.
During its brief run, the plane was able to solve the high-profile shooting case of elderly siblings shot in Walbrook.
The victims in that case were 90 and 82 years old. “We were able to follow the suspect five blocks on foot,” McNutt said.
He said the plane’s images were used in conjunction with Citiwatch cameras to follow suspects. “It can make the Citiwatch cameras one hundred times more powerful,” McNutt said.