BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore’s police commissioner will not support flying a surveillance plane over the city again.
After meeting Monday with Ross McNutt, the founder of Persistent Surveillance Systems, the police department issued a one-sentence statement: “The commissioner learned a lot today about the surveillance plane program and still has no plans to bring it back.”
UPDATE: No new eyes in the sky for now ✈️ From Baltimore Police regarding meeting with Persistent Surveillance Systems about bringing back surveillance plane—“The Commissioner learned a lot today about the surveillance plane program and still has no plans to bring it back” @wjz
— Mike Hellgren (@HellgrenWJZ) August 19, 2019
McNutt says the Greater Baltimore Committee set up the meeting.
The BPD statement echoes comments from spokesman Matt Jablow in an email last week that, “The commissioner has no plans whatsoever to bring back the surveillance plane,” he wrote.
The plane flew over the city three years ago when McNutt says it was instrumental in solving several crimes. At that time, the BPD did not initially inform the public of its existence. There were also privacy concerns from some city leaders and the ACLU.
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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 last week. “We hope that when the commissioner sees what we do, and how effective we are, that he would be very supportive of it.”
McNutt says the plane would be free to taxpayers. John and Laura Arnold, the Texas philanthropists who funded the plane during its last run, pledged to pay for it again.
The cost is estimated at more than $2 million 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.
“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.”
The violence has not let up.
There has been more than one murder a day on average so far this month.
One high-profile unsolved shooting is the attempted robbery of Baltimore Police Sergeant Isaac Carrington outside his home in Northeast Baltimore almost two weeks ago.
Among recent unsolved murders is the killing of 15-year-old Carlos Liverpool in west Baltimore.
And police are still investigating the murder of Sherman Reed, Jr., the son of Coppin State University’s head baseball coach.
If you know anything about these crimes, call police.
Those who want to remain anonymous can call the Metro Crime Stoppers tip line at 1-866-7-LOCKUP. You can also send tips by texting (443) 902-4824.