(Photo by LeAnne Matlach)
Bloomberg Philanthropies’ latest contribution to Baltimore’s city government is a $5 million donation for new police technology.
Sunday’s announcement about the grant from the mayor’s office came a few days after a 21-year-old man killed in East Baltimore became the 319th Baltimorean to be killed this year. As Fox Baltimore reported, that means more Baltimoreans were killed in homicides in 11 months of this year than in all of 2016.
“Equipping our police officers with the tools they need to fight and solve crime is a critical component of our violence reduction strategy,” Mayor Catherine Pugh said in a statement. “This grant will help provide state-of-the-art equipment to our police force to ensure the safety of our city’s citizens and visitors.”
According to the mayor’s office, BPD is adding the following technology in the first half of 2018:
- 60 CCTV cameras which will be added to the 750-camera Citiwatch system. The cameras will be installed on light poles in high crime areas.
- 25 License Plate Readers, which are installed on patrol cars to identify “vehicles of interest” and stolen cars. The technology is already in use by BPD, but this expands the number of readers by 60 percent.
- 10 Square Miles of gunshot detection system coverage. After deciding against Shotspotter a few years ago, the city is onboard with the technology that can alert police when shots are fired – though Shotspotter is not the specific brand being used. This will expand a pilot that began earlier this year.
Pugh, who has lamented the outdated state of city technology overall, previously touted tech upgrades as part of efforts to reduce violence. Earlier this year, the state allocated $803,000 for the gunshot detection pilot, as well as more basic needs like laptops for police cars.
This latest upgrade indicates the tech push is only getting stronger. Baltimore police implemented new systems like body cameras and a new document system in recent years. But new devices used by the department have not always been well-received, as BPD faced privacy concerns and criticism for secrecy surrounding a cellphone data tracking device called the stingray, as well as test-flights of a surveillance plane.
The news release announcing the new devices includes reasons behind each expansion. Citiwatch is described as being identified as “a best practice by an independent Urban Institute study.” Elsewhere, the release states that license plate readers “automate the burdensome process of checking license plate numbers against law enforcement databases for stolen vehicles or wanted individuals.”
City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young is onboard with the latest moves.
“One of the most common requests I receive from my constituents is for more vigilance and more cameras in our neighborhoods,” he said in a statement. “I’m extremely pleased to see the City directing resources to tools that have demonstrated success in keeping communities safe.”
The city has been working with Bloomberg Philanthropies since Pugh took office, receiving a separate grant to form an innovation team within city government. Michael Bloomberg has ties to the city as a Johns Hopkins alumnus and frequent donor to the university, and also recently invested $10 million in the city’s small businesses with Goldman Sachs.
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