“Spy Plane” Program Sneaking into Saint Louis: Ruling Class Puppets on Board of Aldermen Give Support

Demonstration of how “Spy Plane” system works. Image Unicorn Riot.

By: Comrade Toussaint

SAINT LOUIS: The Saint Louis City Board of Aldermen granted more support to the anti-people surveillance program referred to by the masses and those with their ear to the ground simply as the “Spy Plane” program on Friday. Board Bill 200 was passed by the Public Safety Committee of the BOA on January 5 of this year. This program will allow a private contractor called “Persistent Surveillance Systems” to “fly at low altitude taking photos of the city, which investigators can use to track the movement of people or cars leaving the scene of crimes. That information can be paired with ground-level cameras to identify witnesses or suspects.” These planes will be up for 18 hours a day, gathering information on and violating the privacy of the masses. Sellout alderman John Collins-Muhammad (D-21) spoke openly in favor of the bill on Friday, opportunistically raising the masses’ valid concerns about violent crime and drugs activity to promote an anti-people program which will result in nothing but massive invasions of the people’s privacy. This program, according to Unicorn Riot,

continues with further explanation of other systems that could be combined with the spy plane data to maximize their intelligence output. “[PSS] may integrate its iView software to accept and utilize the CAD, the Real Time Crime Center (RTCC) camera system, the Shot Spotter Gunshot Detection System, and the License Plate readers to help make all of the systems work together to enhance their ability to help solve and deter crimes.

The spy plane proposal pays lip service to privacy, claiming that “at a resolution of one pixel per person or vehicle, it is not possible to determine any identifiable characteristic including an individual’s ethnicity, sex, or clothing or, make, model or license plate.” (This misleading disclaimer is contradicted by the intended use of aerial surveillance data to be combined with other surveillance methods such as traffic cameras and license plate data.)

This program was piloted in Baltimore, paid for by a Texas billionaire. Undoubtedly, Rex Sinquefield, Paul McKee and other members of our local bourgeoisie will play a heavy role in funding this program when it comes to Saint Louis. Vice News reports that this program was initiated through a typical reactionary program of lies and deception.

For six months this year, a spy plane flew over Baltimore for hours every day conducting aerial surveillance of everything that happened in 90 percent of the city—an area that encompasses 32 square miles. 

The Baltimore Police Department told the public and a federal appeals court that the surveillance images would only be stored for 45 days, that the planes would only be used for limited tracking of individuals to and from known crime scenes, and that the Aerial Investigation Research (AIR) program couldn’t be used to gather identifying information like license plate numbers. 

This program goes hand in hand with NGA (National Geospatial Agency) fueled gentrification targeting the North Side, which is predominantly Black and working class/semi-proletarian. This $1.7 billion dollar campus which broke ground last year has already displaced Black residents and those who remain will be subject to gentrification, rising rents, and increased police activity. Now comes the spy plane, which will serve no purpose but to harass the people and make them even further prisoners in their own communities. Only through organizing on the basis of firm and revolutionary anti-surveillance, anti-police, and anti-capitalist points of unity can such farcical and dangerous programs such as the “spy plane” be permanently thrown in the garbage. Crime is the product of the capitalist system, and only when the capitalist system is abolished will anti-people behavior finally have the foundation for being eradicated.

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