Plane would cut crime

The head of the com­pany that flew a sur­veil­lance plane over Bal­ti­more prom­ises he can pre­vent and solve crimes if we give him the chance

Baltimore Sun - - FROM PAGE ONE - Ross McNutt, Bal­ti­more The writer is founder of the Com­mu­nity Sup­port Pro­gram.

n Sept. 26, The Sun’s ed­i­to­rial board stated that we needed to do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to re­duce the out of con­trol mur­der rate (“What do we need to do to get Bal­ti­more vi­o­lence un­der con­trol? Ev­ery­thing.”).

On Sept. 28, the board ar­gued that the city should say no to the one pro­gram that can help ac­com­plish that: the Com­mu­nity Sup­port Pro­gram, some­times re­ferred to as the “Eye in the Sky” (“Can we fi­nally give a firm 'no' to the sur­veil­lance plane?”).

But The Sun pro­vided read­ers with in­cor­rect in­for­ma­tion about the ef­fec­tive­ness of the Com­mu­nity Sup­port Pro­gram. We ap­pre­ci­ate the op­por­tu­nity to cor­rect the record. Since we briefed the ed­i­to­rial board ear­lier this year, more than 200 more peo­ple have been mur­dered in the city of Bal­ti­more.

Dur­ing the short test pro­gram two years we flew a lim­ited op­er­a­tion, and we pro­vided in­for­ma­tion on 23 ma­jor crimes in­clud­ing five mur­ders and 18 shoot­ings, stab­bings, rapes and two of­fi­cer-in­volved shoot­ings. The in­for­ma­tion pro­vided in­cluded tracks of 537 ve­hi­cles that were at the crime screens be­fore and af­ter the crimes. Of the 73 ve­hi­cles that ap­peared to have sig­nif­i­cant in­volve­ment, we iden­ti­fied 44 fi­nal lo­ca­tions and tracked them past 357 Ci­tiWatch cam­eras pro­vid­ing 130 qual­ity images of these ve­hi­cles. The ve­hi­cle routes, stop­ping points, images and any other in­for­ma­tion pro­vided in in­ves­ti­ga­tion brief­ings to de­tec­tives. This in­for­ma­tion is used to start an in­ves­ti­ga­tion when there is lit­tle or no other in­for­ma­tion avail­able. Sev­eral of the de­tec­tives we briefed stated that they were the most in­cred­i­ble they had seen. We are still sup­port­ing tri­als and are sched­uled to sup­port an­other trial in Oc­to­ber.

Un­for­tu­nately we could not in­ves­ti­gate all the ma­jor crimes within our im­agery as we had a lim­ited an­a­lysts, and on sev­eral days we had more re­ported shoot­ings than an­a­lysts. We re­ceived more than 250 calls for ser­vice within our cov­er­age ar­eas per day and only looked at the ma­jor crimes.

The Com­mu­nity Sup­port Pro­gram helps re­duce crime in four ways: First, we help solve oth­er­wise un­solv­able crimes by pro­vid­ing in­for­ma­tion that would not oth­er­wise be avail­able. Sec­ond, by solv­ing those crimes we re­move the re­peat of­fend­ers ear­lier in their crim­i­nal ca­reers, sav­ing more vic­tims. We want to re­move a crim­i­nal af­ter they shoot their first in­stead of their eighth per­son. Third, we de­ter crime by in­creas­ing the prob­a­bil­ity of get­ting caught. It is 10 times bet­ter

Oto de­ter a crime than to have to solve it, as it saves the vic­tim’s and shooter’s fam­i­lies grief. My fa­vorite quote from a young man af­ter see­ing our pre­sen­ta­tion was “Man I am not do­ing nothin’.” The de­ter­rent ef­fect is in­creased by spread­ing the word across all parts of the com­mu­nity. We want any­one think­ing of shoot­ing some­one to see a plane and think maybe I shouldn’t. The fourth way we help re­duce crime is by im­prov­ing the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the com­mu­nity and law en­force­ment by pro­vid­ing un­bi­ased in­for­ma­tion about what ac­tu­ally hap­pened. This eases ten­sions and quickly holds peo­ple and po­lice ac­count­able. We believe this will help de­ter or iden­tify po­ten­tial po­lice mis­con­duct. De­fen­dants do have ac­cess and ad­di­tional con­fi­den­tial anal­y­sis through their de­fense at­tor­neys in or­der to ver­ify po­lice state­ments.

To date we have held 27 com­mu­nity meet­ings, ap­peared on dozens of ra­dio shows, and briefed a large num­ber of peo­ple. The feed­back has been very pos­i­tive. When peo­ple see it, they get it and un­der­stand how it works, and they want it and they won­der why it is not in Bal­ti­more.

This will be Bal­ti­more’s fourth con­sec­u­tive year with more than 300 mur­ders. Bal­ti­more has more than twice the mur­der rate of all the ma­jor U.S. cities ex­cept two. Mur­ders and shoot­ings should be the num­ber-one is­sue in Bal­ti­more. Ma­jor crime costs Bal­ti­more $3.8 bil­lion per year. Our ob­jec­tive is to re­duce ma­jor crime by 20 per­cent to 30 per­cent per year. The im­pact of that would be 70 to 100 peo­ple not mur­dered and close to 500 peo­ple not shot per year. The eco­nomic im­pact would be $700 mil­lion to $1 bil­lion.

Our ser­vices are of­fered to Bal­ti­more at no cost to help the great peo­ple of Bal­ti­more. A donor is will­ing to fund mul­ti­ple years and an in­de­pen­dent eval­u­a­tion of the pro­gram’s ef­fec­tive­ness by the Uni­ver­sity of Bal­ti­more. Our com­pany is not go­ing to profit from our ef­forts with Bal­ti­more, as we have agreed to work at cost. We want Bal­ti­more to be an ex­am­ple to the world.

Please al­low us to help make Bal­ti­more a safer and more en­joy­able place to live for all of its peo­ple.

The City Coun­cil is hold­ing a com­mu­nity Fo­rum on Oct. 16 at 4 p.m. on the Com­mu­nity Sup­port Pro­gram. Please come out and show your sup­port.

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