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article imageNew surveillance technology can watch a large area for hours

By Megan Morreale     Feb 6, 2014 in Technology
Dayton - New camera surveillance technology from Persistent Surveillance Systems can spy for hours on a single large area, as tested in Dayton, Ohio.
What these images reveled was locations of people and possibly criminals mapped over time. When recording a robbery, they were able to produce the robber's entire trajectory, including the location of the building he went into for hiding when the job was complete.
In a society that is no longer surprised by increasingly more and more advanced surveillance technology, the deployment of these new technologies often happens under our radar. It is a newer and more powerful generation of surveillance technology that can track every person across a small city for hours at a time, Ross McNutt, the genial president of Persistent Surveillance Systems said.
These cameras have already been deployed over major public events such as the Ohio political rally when John McCain named Sarah Palin his running mate in 2008 and NASCAR races, as well as Baltimore, Philadelphia and Compton.
The new surveillance technology can't read license plates or see faces, but it can identify people and track their movements. Each person is only as big a a pixel, and can't be identified beyond that.
“We get a little frustrated when people get so worried about us seeing them in their backyard,” McNutt said in his operation center, where the walls are adorned with 120-inch monitors, each showing a different grainy urban scene collected from above. “We can’t even see what they are doing in their backyard. And, by the way, we don’t care.”
McNutt is a retired Air Force officer and hopes to convince Dayton that cameras on fixed-winged aircraft can prove much more useful for surveillance than cameras in police helicopters.
With this new technology, McNutt is envisioning such a steep drop in crime, that a real societal impact will be seen. Property values will rise, we will have better schools and out incarceration numbers will dip dramatically.
An article published in The Washington Post described how the cameras were used:
During one of the company’s demonstration flights over Dayton in 2012, police got reports of an attempted robbery at a bookstore and shots fired at a Subway sandwich shop. The cameras revealed a single car moving between the two locations.
By reviewing the images frame by frame, analysts were able to help police piece together a larger story: A man had left a residential neighborhood at midday and attempted to rob the bookstore, but fled when somebody hit an alarm. Then he drove to Subway, where the owner pulled a gun and chased him off. His next stop was a Family Dollar Store, where the man paused for several minutes. He soon returned home, after a short stop at a gas station where a video camera captured an image of his face.
A few hours later, after the surveillance flight ended, the Family Dollar Store was robbed. Police used the detailed map of the man’s movements, along with other evidence from the crime scenes, to arrest him for all three crimes.
With the NSA scandal and Edward Snowden buzzing in the news, this type of powerful surveillance technology is raising alarms about privacy rights.
Courts are struggling to apply old precedents to this rapidly developing technology in their court rooms, and they're not catching up fast enough.
They certainly are not catching up fast enough for the mayor of Dayton who was so impressed with the technology, that she is encouraging the businesses who own tall buildings to install rooftop surveillance cameras.
More about Surveillance, Cameras, surveillance camera, Nsa, Privacy
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