Big Brother just scored another major win.
Beginning Friday, Baltimore’s 600,000 residents will be under constant video surveillance and find themselves recorded whenever they step outdoors by airplanes leased out to the local police department — part of the city’s campaign to combat rising homicide rates.
The program is slated to run as a trial for the next six months to determine the technology’s effectiveness at reducing crime. Up to three aircraft will be equipped with wide-angle cameras to capture all movement in approximately 90 percent of the city.
The cameras will take one photo per second, and the images can be pieced together with software in order to create a continuous visual record to support other surveillance technology already in place, such as street-level cameras, license-plate readers, and gunfire-sound detectors.
When a crime is reported, analysts will be able to zoom in from the panoramic view of the city to pinpoint the movement of suspects and witnesses, telling officers where to look for people who went to and from the scene.
AP notes the extent of the monitoring. A given citizen will be recorded “in his back yard, and as he steps into his car, and when he drives around the city, his entire trip will be recorded, too.”
Despite the fact that Baltimore residents will be spied on in their private backyards and driveways, Police Commissioner Michael Harrison defends the program by saying the Supreme Court has ruled that “there is no expectation of privacy in a public place.”
Harrison maintains that the new technology will only be used to investigate homicides, shootings, carjackings, and armed robberies.
“I have no expectation of what it would do or what it will not do because it has not been done in the United States before,” he told AP. “What I’ve been shown shows me that it’s a potential tool that could be used by detectives in the crime fight.”
It seems some Baltimoreans are willing to accept the violation of their constitutional freedom from warrantless search if it means potentially lowering crime in the city, which even amid the COVID-19 lockdown is higher than last year’s — with over 75 killings since January alone.
“I am so upset and angry about all these people that have died, I’m willing to give up some of my rights, as bad as that sounds, and I’m a staunch civil rights person,” said Marvin L. Cheatham Sr., a Baltimore resident who led his local NAACP chapter in the 1990s. “I had 19 homicides two years ago in my neighborhood.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which despite its name has often taken prominent anti-liberty stances against religious freedom and other rights that run contrary to the left-wing agenda, nevertheless lived up to its avowed mission on this occasion and opposed the new program.
ACLU of Maryland argues that the constant aerial surveillance tramples on expectations of privacy regarding movement, limits the right to gather freely, and constitutes an indiscriminate search without a warrant on every person living in the city.
Senior ACLU attorney David Rocah described the monitoring as the equivalent of a police officer following each resident at all times wherever they go.
“If that happened in real life, I think everyone would very clearly and viscerally understand the privacy implications, but because this is being done remotely with sophisticated video technology from an airplane, we don’t experience the invasion in the same way,” Rocah said.
The ACLU filed a request for a preliminary injunction, but a federal judge shot it down, stating that more intrusive measures have been found constitutional.
That, of course, brings up the problem with making judicial decisions based on precedent instead of based on the Constitution. One unconstitutional measure shouldn’t be used carte blanche to justify all other constitutional violations in the future.
The ACLU is appealing their case.
The technology is being provided by Ohio-based Persistent Surveillance Systems (PSS) with approximately $3.7 million in funding from the foundation of billionaire and former hedge-fund manager John Arnold and his wife, Laura.
Arnold was instrumental in the Enron scandal, during which he made the largest bonus in Enron history ($8 billion) days before the company declared bankruptcy, costing shareholders $74 billion.
Arnold Ventures has partnered with George Soros’ Open Society Foundations and the Ford Foundation, among others. Other causes the non-profit has promoted include open primaries, abortion, Planned Parenthood, and funding the Wikimedia Foundation.
PSS President Ross McNutt first developed the surveillance technology for use by the Air Force to identify people leaving explosives to kill American troops in Iraq. Police assure the public they will use this military-grade equipment “only when an egregious violent crime is already known to have occurred.”
AP notes that the contractor “secretly tested this surveillance in Baltimore in 2016, as crime soared after the death in police custody of a young black man, Freddie Gray. But that effort was cut short once exposed, and violent crime has flourished since then, along with mistrust of police, and some of Baltimore’s leaders are now publicly committed to testing mass aerial surveillance.”
The city has suffered over 300 homicides annually for five years straight.
The news comes as law-enforcement agencies around the county are using drones to spy on citizens and compel them to obey stay-at-home orders.
Law professor Andrew Ferguson properly explains what leaders should really do if they want to reduce crime in their communities:
It doesn’t matter what that something is. They just have to respond because ‘Chief what are you doing about crime?’ The real answers are ‘Well, I need better schools. I need more jobs. I need some hope and opportunity in these cities, better housing.’ But that’s not available. He doesn’t have that.
Totalitarians have a knack for allowing chaos — such as widespread crime and homicide — to grow. When the people begin demanding an end to the mayhem, the power-thirsty respond, not by addressing the true underlying causes of the unrest, but by imposing draconian controls over law-abiding citizens.
Many may be willing to put up with such measures, believing they’ll only be used against criminals. The problem? Once the controls are in place, suddenly everyone who disagrees with those in power is labeled a “criminal.”
Image: Sean Pavone/iStock/Getty Images Plus
Luis Miguel is a marketer and writer whose journalistic endeavors shed light on the Deep State, the immigration crisis, and the enemies of freedom. Follow his exploits on Facebook, Twitter, Bitchute, and at luisantoniomiguel.com.