The Baltimore Aerial Investigation Pilot Program is being evaluated by three independent researchers: The University of Baltimore Schaefer Center for Public Policy; The RAND Corporation; and the New York University Policing Project. The role of each research partner is discussed below.
The Schaefer Center for Public Policy will conduct a study to understand community perceptions of the AIR pilot project being implemented by the BPD. The study will ask a sample of Baltimore residents about their perceptions of the program and its effectiveness, their neighborhood conditions, and police-community relations. Researchers will also document questions raised by community members during the BPD’s planned meetings with residents regarding the technology and its implementation across the city. The study is designed to answer these questions:
The project includes two surveys - one May - June 2020 and one February - March 2021. The surveys seek to document residents' perceptions of the AIR pilot project, the perceived impacts on crime, perceptions of the BPD, and respondents' perceptions of their neighborhood. The survey will be conducted with a sample of Baltimore residents living in neighborhoods most impacted by the pilot program (i.e. residents in neighborhoods with high concentrations of crime and poverty) and a smaller sample of residents from other parts of Baltimore. An interim and a final report on the study findings will be publicly disseminated and shared with BDP.
The RAND Corporation will conduct a mixed-method evaluation of the Aerial Investigative Research (AIR) pilot project being implemented by the Baltimore Police Department, to understand how often the project is accessed and used by criminal investigators, how often the information provided by the project provides evidence that is useful to the investigators, and how the project affects crime rates, clearance rates, and prosecution success in Baltimore. The evaluation is designed to answer three primary questions: 1) What did the project consist of, and how was it implemented in practice? 2) How often were data available and useful for target crimes that occurred during coverage periods? 3) Does the technology produce improved policing outcomes as measured by increased clearance rates and reduced crime rates for targeted crimes? Outputs include an audit of the frequency of usable data; a survey of BPD detectives regarding the perceived value of the technology and possible improvements; and an interim (shortly after the pilot ends) and final report assessing the project’s effect on crime and clearance rates (publicly released in the spring of 2022).
The Policing Project at NYU School of Law will conduct a civil rights and civil liberties audit of the AIR pilot project being implemented by the BPD in partnership with its technology vendor, Persistence Surveillance Systems, Inc. The audit will review the technology and its operations in order to answer these questions: 1) How is BPD is using data from the technology? 2) How is BPD integrating the data into operations? 3) What are the potential civil rights and civil liberties concerns, such as disparate racial impacts, privacy concerns, and constitutional risks. Information will be collected through a review of documents provided by BPD and PSS, interviews with BPD and PSS, onsite review of BPD operations related to the technology, and interviews with selected civil liberties and civil rights leaders in Baltimore. Output will initial include recommendations to BPD and PSS for possible improvements to the technology and its operations, based on the audit. A final report will be produced to help law enforcement, public officials, and the broader public make an informed decision about whether and how to use aerial investigative technology in the future.
Baltimore Aerial Investigation Research Pilot
Schaefer Center for Public Policy | University of Baltimore| 1420 N. Charles Street | Baltimore, MD 21201
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