Pulitzer Center grantee Joanne Cavanaugh Simpson was interviewed for a St. Louis Public Radio story about her reporting on Baltimore police’s use of AI surveillance tech.
Cavanaugh Simpson’s project documents a Baltimore Police Department (BPD) initiative that had planes flying over the city for hours a day, capturing images of the streets below. The program, which began in April, is a collaboration between the BPD and the private, Ohio-based company Persistent Surveillance Systems. The $3.7 million experiment was privately funded by Arnold Ventures, LLC, a data-oriented philanthropic fund, Cavanaugh Simpson reported. The CEO of Persistent Surveillance Systems has expressed interest in bringing the same surveillance technology to St. Louis.
“Some [activists] have been followed from protests by police in the past; they feel like this is one other tool to do that,” Cavanaugh Simpson said in an interview with St. Louis Public Radio. “They feel less comfortable going out on streets to reach out to people when they know that they are being recorded from above.”
Through a months-long investigation, the Pulitzer Center-supported reporting project examines how, historically, police surveillance has disproportionately affected minority communities and how the culture of surveillance affects crime prevention and civil rights.