California town adopts spy plane plan

Posted by Chris Nova

Lancaster City Council has approved the filming of its citizens from above. Yes, the California town will soon begin using a camera-equipped spy plane to monitor potential criminal activity. 

According to LA Daily News, the program met with no opposition from the City Council who unanimously approved the controversial decision this week. As such, the city will soon begin flying a Cessna 172 fixed-wing aircraft equipped with a recording device.
    
The pilot will be on the lookout for robberies, drug deals, car accidents and other incidents as he cruises at heights of 1,000 to 3,000 feet. The local Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department station will receive a feed of the footage in real time.
    
"The point of this will allow us to look for emerging situations," said Mayor R. Rex Parris, who claimed his goal is to reduce crime.
    
"If there is a robbery going on, you can click on the car and follow it."
    
The American Civil Liberties Union has reached out to city officials with concerns over whether Lancaster’s 150,000 residents will be filmed unknowingly. They also requested detailed information about the program, according to Parris.
    
"They are acting like an aggressive bunch of lawyers," Parris said of the ACLU.
    
ACLU representatives didn't offer any comments on the matter, although critics worry the spy plane it will invade citizen’s privacy by filming harmless activities like sunbathing in a backyard.
  
"Every technology is capable of abuse. The trick is to make sure it's used correctly," said Parris. "You have to hold people accountable in how they use it."

It will cost the city about $1.3 million to get the plane in the air, as operating it will run up costs of approximately $90,000 a month.
    
A similar spy plane/crime program was suggested in 2009, but was shot down because of high costs. It looks like cost is no longer an issue when it comes to fighting crime in Lancaster.
    
The city - which used to have one of the county’s highest crime rates - has experienced a noticeable drop in criminal activity since Parris was elected mayor in 2007.