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Surveillance company offers St. Louis $6.6 million in crimefighting tools for free

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ST. LOUIS, Mo. — A Dayton, Ohio crimefighting company says it can guarantee to solve murders while preventing others. It says it can offer its services under a $6.6 million grant, to one city. St. Louis is on the list of five possible recipients who can get three years at no cost to taxpayers.

Persistent Surveillance Systems or PSS - can watch almost an entire city from the sky. The owner, Dr. Ross McNutt talked to us via Skype. He said, “We are looking for a city that is willing to use our services in a very public way to allow us to demonstrate the ability to reduce murders and shooting by 20–30% within the first year.”

His company can watch more than half of St. Louis at one time, from a camera on a Cesna plane.

From above, the cameras are not able to identify people. A person appears as a dot or a single pixel. In a recorded example of a murder in a Baltimore alley, the company was not only able to follow the dots to see where the suspects went, but they were also able to go backward in time to see where the suspect came from. McNutt said, “We were able to identify a total of 12 cars in the first and second location, 12 locations, two cartel headquarters, and a major drug delivery location - all from a single man found in an alleyway with no witnesses.”

St. Louisans may be hesitant because of controversy in Baltimore. Authorities did not disclose the program there and then citizens spotted the planes in the sky.

McNutt says the program should not be a secret. He said, “We want it to be very public.” He continued, “Two-thirds of what we hope to do is deter crime in the first place, rather than having to solve it. I`ve witnessed 39 murders so far and to be honest I`d rather have avoided 39 murders.”

PSS says the program would normally cost $2.2 million dollars a year. PSS is offering St. Louis three free years under a safety grant - already paid for.

Dr. McNutt said, “All it would require is the city leadership to say yes. At no cost to the city, it allows us to provide that service, provide extra police officers to use the information we put off, allows us external oversight and external evaluations by another group that evaluates how effective we are.”

The Mayor’s Office said the company will need to go through the proper channels to make its pitch to St. Louis.

Board of Alderman President Louis Reed’s Office said it’s interested in learning more.

And SLMPD provided the following response - “The protection of the privacy of our citizens is our main concern with any type of surveillance technology. The cameras currently utilized by our department’s Real-Time Crime Center are in public locations where citizens do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as intersections. The mass surveillance program described by this system is not a technology we would utilize without full consent and cooperation of the residents in the City of St. Louis as well as other groups such as the ACLU.”

PSS is now trying to set up public hearings in St. Louis in September.

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