KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -- What do you value more: Your privacy or your safety?

A crime-fighting surveillance company told KCTV5 they have a new tool that could save lives in Kansas City. The company would take pictures of your every move from the sky. It’s similar to Google Earth, but the pictures are updated every single second.

If Ross McNutt has his way, the fight against KC’s climbing crime rate would soon take flight. “When you see it, you go, ‘Holy smokes. I get it,’” the president of Persistent Surveillance Systems said.

KCTV5 FaceTimed with McNutt from his office in Ohio. “You can follow someone back from a murder scene, to the house they came from, and then to the house they go to,” he explained.

Working with police after a 911 call, his analysts retrace the scene of a crime. They can watch a shooting, murder, carjacking, or assault take place right before their eyes. “Personally, I’ve watched 39 murders occur,” he said.

They see who came and went in real time. Once it’s mapped out, they hit the ground gathering security camera footage along the route and talking to witnesses who saw the whole thing.

The pixelated images are captured by three planes equipped with cameras. They cover about 90% of the city during high crime hours. No livestreaming is allowed. The images are intentionally low quality to protect civilian privacy.

The system has been used in Baltimore off-and-on for about three years. In one example, it helped police find a suspect who slammed into an officer’s car, assaulted her, and took off. McNutt said, “They beat her up for 46 seconds. We followed them for an hour prior and 20 minutes afterwards. We had them arrested in about two hours.”

In another case, a 911 call came in as a man shot in an alley with no witnesses. McNutt said he eventually found a drug cartel house and about a dozen witnesses by retracing the crime scene path.

At one time, Persistent Surveillance Systems caused controversy. The public wasn’t told they were being watched.

However, this coming spring Baltimore will use the Community Support Program, as McNutt has branded it, for a very public six-month study.

A total of 348 people were murdered in Baltimore last year. McNutt believes his program would decrease crime rates in violent cities by 20% or 30%.

If you apply those numbers to Kansas City, it could bring 2019’s 148 murders down to about 104. He’s willing to go anywhere in desperate need.

McNutt’s presented the system to lawmakers in Jefferson City. He’s eyeing up St. Louis as the next test market.

Community members there such as Cedric Redmon are pushing St. Louis city leadership to sign a deal.

“Get over the fact you're going to be on camera,” Redmon said. “We take pictures all the time. We record everything we see, and now you cannot be afraid to get on camera. Especially when it's time to solve murders.”

McNutt wants the Kansas City Community to also speak up. We heard cries for help after the 9ine Ultra Lounge nightclub mass shooting. “We need to come together now and say we're seriously tired of this crime,” one Kansas City resident said.

He wants those impacted to put pressure on the city and police to explore the idea. He said that’s how city leaders started looking into the program in St. Louis.

Rosilynn Temple is with KC Mother’s in Charge and her son was murdered in 2011. She told KCTV5 that Kansas City should give it a chance. “We’ve got to do something different,” she said. “We’ve got to help our community.”

McNutt said persistent surveillance is that something different.

Here’s his pitch: Persistent surveillance would solve more crimes, limit repeat offenders, and -- most importantly -- deter crime in the first place because criminals will know they now have a better chance of getting caught.

“Deterring crime is worth more than solving the crime,” McNutt told KCTV5. “You save the victim, their family the grief. You save the shooter and their family the grief.”

Here’s what makes it a tough sell, though: FAA regulations and your right to privacy.

“I think this is going to directly criminalize more and more black folks,” one critic said in St. Louis, protesting the program.

The ACLU agreed with that sentiment and said it’s too risky. “It’s disturbing and shocking,” a spokesperson said.

The program does make one have thoughts of Big Brother or 1984.

However, McNutt explained the images he captures on the screen are intentionally low quality to protect identities. He said only police, prosecutors, and those investigating a case would have access to what it records. He said what they see is a pixel on the screen. They then use that pixel to see where it goes and find security footage on the ground.

The relationship between this program and police is complicated. Baltimore’s police commissioner said he still doesn’t believe this will work, but since the killings keep climbing, he’s giving it a shot for six months to see what kind of impact is made.

Kansas City Missouri Police told KCTV5 they had not heard about this program until we brought it to their attention. They provided a statement saying this does not sound like something they would use. “Any ongoing investigation would be done by sworn law enforcement members and using department owned equipment, not a private company,” a spokesperson said.

McNutt remains strong in his belief. He said it will work and more cities will get on board.

The program costs $1.5 million to operate. A donor out of Houston is willing to cover the price for three years.

Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas said McNutt has not reached out to the city. However, the Mayor said he is open to exploring the idea.

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(1) comment


If I determine that I'm being surveilled 24/7 by a corrupt government--the folks authorizing and doing that surveillance will not be safe, regardless of what corrupt laws are passed to allow the surveillance!

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