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Controversial Aerial Surveillance Plan To Be Addressed At Public Meeting

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The city of Dayton is holding a public meeting Tuesday evening to address the city’s plan to use aerial surveillance. As WYSO’s Emily McCord reports, the program has is facing opposition from civil rights groups.

At issue is a proposed contract the city of Dayton is considering with a local security company called Persistent Surveillance Systems. The $120 thousand contract would pay for manned aircraft to monitor crime from above the city.

"This is most invasive spy technology that’s out there anywhere," says Ellis Jacobs, a member of a group  of local citizens who are opposed to the use of aerial surveillance.

The citizen group is working with the police department regarding policies to the use of the aircraft and recommends that it should only be used with a warrant and that the community should have oversight.

"This is big brother technology and I think the question for us is does Dayton want to pave the path to the use of big brother technology looking down on and tracking the movement of all of its citizens in real time?" says Jacobs.

But Richard Biehl, Chief of the Dayton Police Department, says that won't be the case. He says  the surveillance would be used to track criminal behavior and for cases of natural disaster or weather emergencies, and it will be only be used for five days in a three month period.

"They have nothing to do with the private behaviors of citizens. This is tied to criminal conduct, as is the speed cameras or red light cameras or even the closed circuit televisions that are placed in public places," says Biehl.

Biehl says the use of the aircraft will be public record. He says the decision will rest with the city commission as to whether or not aerial surveillance will become reality.