BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A new survey shows nearly three-quarters of Baltimore residents are in favor of a controversial surveillance plane designed to help the city fight crime from the air.
As currently proposed, the plane would fly over parts of the city, detecting and helping to solve violent crimes.
Opponents, though, have raised concerns about the project’s implications for privacy.
Rev. Alvin C. Hathaway, Sr., of Baltimore’s Union Baptist Church, commissioned the poll, which was conducted by Hart Research Associates.
The firm polled 500 city residents and found a majority are strongly in favor of the tool. In total, 74 percent supported the plane, 57 percent of whom said they strongly support it.
According to a new study by Hart Research Associates, 74% of Baltimore City residents are in favor of an aerial surveillance plane, with more than half saying they strongly support it. Tune in at 5:30&7PM tonight for our story. @wjz pic.twitter.com/fAB55EBtEI
— Rachel Menitoff (@RachelMenitoff) October 14, 2019
Images from the aerial surveillance plane were first introduced to the city during a pilot program in 2016, but a number of city officials shot down the idea because the police department was operating it in secret.
Now, many in the community are wondering whether it’s time to bring it back.
“We really should take this opportunity to do a course correction and to move our city into a way that everybody feels they are a part and that we are working hard to make this a safe city,” Hathaway said.
Hathway is also the president of Beloved Community Services Corporation, the group that applied for grant funding and used it to research the overhead plane.
“I believe this is a way to lead in crime-fighting by doing the work, doing the due diligence, but putting this eye in the sky and making sure people in Baltimore are safe,” he said.
Despite the overwhelming support, residents agreed there should be limits when it comes to privacy, Hathaway said, a concern echoed by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Even among survey respondents who expressed privacy concerns, support for the aerial system was 67 percent.
Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said he’s met with the creator of the plane twice. After those meetings, he remains a believer that there is not enough evidence to show the program is effective.
“This has not been done in an American city and so there’s no way to validate the way he forecasts his crime reduction percentages,” Harrison said.
Following a violent weekend, residents who spoke with WJZ said if it’s effective, the plane could only help the city’s crime problem.
“We need something beyond what they’ve been doing,” said Dloria Talley.
Hathaway said he’s now in the process of sharing the findings of the research with other religious leaders. He said he also sent it to city council members and Harrison.