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Surveillance plane would cut city crime

On 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 5 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 trails and are scheduled to support another trail 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 to 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.

Ross McNutt, Baltimore

The writer is founder of the Community Support Program.

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