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Baltimore Police Took 1 Million Surveillance Photos of City (go.com) 74

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ABC News: Baltimore Police on Friday released data showing that a surveillance plane secretly flew over the city roughly 100 times, taking more than 1 million snapshots of the streets below. Police held a news conference where they released logs tracking flights of the plane owned and operated by Persistent Surveillance Systems, which is promoting the aerial technology as a cutting-edge crime-fighting tool. The logs show the plane spent about 314 hours over eight months creating the chronological visual record. The program began in January and was not initially disclosed to Baltimore's mayor, city council or other elected officials. Now that it's public, police say the plane will fly over the city again as a terrorism prevention tool when Fleet Week gets underway on Monday, as well as during the Baltimore Marathon on Oct. 15. The logs show that the plane made flights ranging between one and five hours long in January and February, June, July and August. The flights stopped on Aug. 7, shortly before the program's existence was revealed in an article by Bloomberg Businessweek. "We have a real opportunity to police smarter," Commissioner Kevin Davis said. "The old days of looking at a spike in violence, and marching orders to stop everyone that moves in hoping of identifying a suspect or a witness -- we have to move away from that type of policing. I just believe that taking advantage of this technology opportunity was a prudent thing to do."
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Baltimore Police Took 1 Million Surveillance Photos of City

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  • Yeah bullshit. Mayor's office pushes policies on the police department and drives what they do and how they enforce law. They are exactly the ones that pushed this.
  • Good work guys! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday October 07, 2016 @08:19PM (#53035633) Journal
    So, even if we make the generous assumption that lots and lots of aerial photos are a useful tool, rather than some combination of vendor snake oil and lazy technophiles looking for any excuse to sit in some sort of 'command center' with a comfy chair and some giant monitors instead of having to go outside and do boring police stuff; how is secrecy a good plan?

    Solving crimes is nice; but what people really like is when your 'deterrents' cause them to just not happen in the first place. You might be able to justify some concealment of the fine details in order to frustrate attempts to circumvent the measure; but keeping the existence of the entire program secret massively reduces its potential as a deterrent, which is effectively choosing to have more crime in the hopes of closing more cases rather than increasing the perceived risk of engaging in crime.

    There are, of course, other reasons for secrecy; but they aren't very flattering.
    • Re:Good work guys! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Friday October 07, 2016 @08:48PM (#53035715)
      When your metric of success is arrest numbers and not reduction in crime a deterrent does not matter.
      Personally I think the thousands of separate police forces run by local governments across the USA just do not individually have the scale to be run like the best of professional law enforcement elsewhere.
      • Re:Good work guys! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Falos ( 2905315 ) on Friday October 07, 2016 @09:35PM (#53035895)
        It's bad if a PD uses that as their metric of success - it's really bad if someone else tells them that. They're going to be gaming the system as instructed. You're going to get a plateful of gimmicks handed back to you.

        Same as telling schools/teachers their funding depends on grades. Same as telling a wage slave that Metric XYZ is gospel in your house. Same as every oversimplified impetus.
        • by dbIII ( 701233 )

          bad if a PD uses that as their metric of success - it's really bad if someone else tells them that

          Indeed. Which is why it's a mess to have so many tiny little police forces at the beck and call of small local governments instead of forces large enough to be more professional.

          • Re:Good work guys! (Score:4, Insightful)

            by reboot246 ( 623534 ) on Saturday October 08, 2016 @08:26AM (#53037131) Homepage
            I certainly don't want one huge national police force at the beck and call of one strong corrupt centralized government. We've seen that in other countries and it usually doesn't go so well for the people.
            • by dbIII ( 701233 )
              Other nations do it at the state level or regional level to avoid the current overtly common situation of polices forces run by corrupt local government. They then apply the doctrine of separation of powers. None of this shit where a mayor can get a sysadmin dragged off by the police just for being on the wrong side of office politics.
      • by swb ( 14022 )

        I've read that criticism with regard to police shootings -- there's so many police forces and so many of them are small, use of force training has no chance of being uniform across all departments nor does the quantity and quality of training have a chance of being the same.

        In the Minneapolis/St Paul metro area there are maybe three dozen suburbs plus the core cities, almost all with their own police departments not to mention 3-4 county sheriff departments (depending on how far out you want to measure the

        • > -- there's so many police forces and so many of them are small, use of force training has no chance of being uniform across all departments nor does the quantity and quality of training have a chance of being the same.

          The use-of-force training can be exactly the same, taught by the same instructor, with cops from different departments in the same class if you prefer. Each department doesn't have to run their own training school, and shouldn't, for most things.

          In Texas there's a place called TEEX - you

      • When your metric of success is arrest numbers and not reduction in crime a deterrent does not matter.

        Neither of those are important metrics. The metric that matters to most PDs is the number of civil forfeitures.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      how is secrecy a good plan?
      Think of the command center sized GUI on the wall. Rent on or no bid heat maps, wifi tracking, voice print upgrades, p2p tracking, onion routing ip finder.
      What once the clandestine services had is now within the budget of a city or state task force.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      It's not about crime reduction. It's about control. These "photos" are videos with a one second framerate. They are stored FOREVER. So if you threaten to gain political influence that the guys controlling these videos dislike, well you and everyone you know or rely upon will have their history rewound in a search for any leverage against you. That's what is being sold. The first contract for this company was in Mexico. You know, the Mexico where if your gang becomes dominant then it's members are then made

  • So taking over a million secret aerial photographs is supposed to stop crime and terrorism?

    If another person or organization did this I suppose they could plead that they did this for the good of the community. I'm sure the police would believe them.

  • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Friday October 07, 2016 @08:35PM (#53035675)

    "The old days of looking at a spike in violence, and marching orders to stop everyone that moves in hoping of identifying a suspect or a witness -- we have to move away from that type of policing..."

    Ah, so the method of blanketing a particular area for a specific amount of time as a justified response to criminal activity isn't good enough at generating enough arrests, so the answer is to use technology to perform mass surveillance against thousands of innocent people for months, even when there is no justified cause to do so, in order to generate arrests and revenue.

    Believe me, you don't have to offer up pathetic excuses about the "old days". We get why the fuck you're really doing this. And not only is it disgusting, it's unconstitutional and should be illegal.

    I propose anyone still wanting to claim we have Freedom in the United States be charged with criminal ignorance. It's quite obvious the police state we now live under mandates otherwise.

    • I propose anyone still wanting to claim we have Freedom in the United States be charged with criminal ignorance.

      We can't do that, that would be unconstitutional. ;)

    • by Anonymous Coward

      "Unconstitutional" *is* "illegal", dumbass.

      Your government isn't of or from you, it's a bunch of elites gone fully self aware and fucking you down into slavery and loving every minute of it.
      Fuck the government.
      Rise up.

    • I propose anyone still wanting to claim we have Freedom in the United States be charged with criminal ignorance.

      This was the funniest part about people claiming that only the US should control ICANN because we are the only ones with "freedom".

    • More like because in these days of Alice Through The Looking Glass political correctness actually increasing police in an area of high crime would be called racism?

      So they either try to do things in secret like the above or more likely what is happening in just about every major city in the country you let the inner city become a slaughterhouse thanks to Ferguson effect [washingtonpost.com] making more and more cops simply unwilling to do their jobs for fear of being accused of racism. Sadly we can look to the UK to see where t

    • I kinda understand your concern here, but are you cool with Google maps?
      • I kinda understand your concern here, but are you cool with Google maps?

        Taxpayers aren't footing the bill for Google maps.

        And since consumers voluntarily give up their GPS-tracked privacy when using Google maps, it's highly unlikely that anyone would label it as unconstitutional either.

        Oh, and speaking of voluntary, this form of mass surveillance didn't exactly start with EULAs mailed to every taxpayer in the city. It was carried out in complete secrecy.

        Perhaps when Google maps starts filling courtrooms with cases built on parallel construction, I'll have more of a concern ov

        • I'm talking about the fact that there's are satellites overhead taking pictures of the planet daily. More than likely those satellites were paid for, at least partially, with tax dollars.
          • I'm talking about the fact that there's are satellites overhead taking pictures of the planet daily. More than likely those satellites were paid for, at least partially, with tax dollars.

            In a theoretically perfect government with proper oversight from the associated accountability office, they should be charging any third party enough money to at least cover project costs and protect the taxpayer investment.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 07, 2016 @08:54PM (#53035737)

    http://www.radiolab.org/story/... [radiolab.org]
    There's a stream link at the top. If you want to save the mp3 for later, open in vlc and find the source url in 'codec info'.

    Tl;dr version- This type of surveillance is mind-bogglingly useful in very high-crime areas, but if abused will quickly degrade into the worst 1984 scenario I can imagine.
    For now I'm not too worried unless the system scales down to fit easily on a drone or something. Modern aircraft are still at least possible to spot visually or on low-end radar.

  • Donut hunt

  • Eye in the Sky [radiolab.org]

    Another Big Brother tool for China and Russia to use to continue stamping on a human face, forever. No more "imagine" needed.

  • Is it any wonder? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PeeAitchPee ( 712652 ) on Saturday October 08, 2016 @07:57AM (#53037075)
    Short of deploying the MD National Guard, there is no policing that will have any effect some of these war-torn neighborhoods in Baltimore. Make no mistake -- this is just as bad as South Side Chicago. The gangs absolutely control not only the streets, but the jails too. Witnesses are ruthlessly threatened, and any cooperation with police results in violent reprisal. The stop snitching culture rules all. Most kids have no fathers present and the idea of education itself is ridiculed. The gang banger MO now is to walk up to someone in broad daylight and unload the high capacity magazine of your large-caliber handgun into your victim's head (yeah, despite some of the most rigorous gun laws in the nation including a ban on such magazines). After a hot weekend in the summer, you often end up with a body count inline with Falluja or Aleppo, Because no one cooperates, often camera footage is the only evidence available to help catch these thugs. Unless forces from outside the city decide to stop this cycle of violence by a) ending the "war on drugs" and b) truly deciding that "Black Lives Matter," therefore gangs destroying black neighborhoods are incompatible with civilization itself, then absolutely nothing will change, ever. Though the surveillance program should have been disclosed, I cannot fault the city for thinking outside of the box and trying to gain some sort of assistance in combating this horrific violence. Please take a look at this article [baltimoresun.com] from the Baltimore Sun published this AM to get some perspective on *why* stuff like this is even considered.
  • by PeeAitchPee ( 712652 ) on Saturday October 08, 2016 @09:18AM (#53037253)
    Some might be curious about the system, the company who deploys it, and exactly how it works and how they coordinate with local law enforcement: https://www.bloomberg.com/feat... [bloomberg.com]
  • 1 million images taken resulting is zero crimes prevented. Your hard earned tax dollars at work AND welcome to the new police state people.Get the hell out of the planes and get out of your cars and start preventing crimes. cops are not helping prevent crimes because they are being over paid METER MAIDS more interested in giving tickets.

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