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St. Louis aldermen endorse 18-hour aircraft surveillance

January 23, 2021 GMT

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A potential aerial surveillance program aimed at helping St. Louis police investigate the city’s soaring violent crime problem has cleared one hurdle.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Board of Aldermen voted 15-14 Friday to give preliminary approval to the measure. It would direct Mayor Lyda Krewson or her successor to contract with an Ohio-based company proposing to fly airplanes up to 18 hours a day over the city.

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The mayor hasn’t said if she will sign or veto the measure if aldermen pass it next week.

“Our city is in crisis mode,” said sponsor Tom Oldenburg, D-16th Ward, citing the city’s 262 murders last year, the highest total since 1993.

Backers say the cameras could track the path of suspects and vehicles from key crime scenes and help in police investigations. The 18-month contract wouldn’t kick in unless the company found private donors to cover the cost.

Opponents warned that the plan posed a threat to civil liberties because the cameras could track every movement on a wide swath of city streets at any given time.

The revised bill also requires a written request from a police officer before a company aircraft could zoom in on a crime scene after a shots-fired or 911 notification.