Dayton ponders airborne cameras

Surveillance would help police.
Local company assists law enforcement in U.S., Mexico.

ByThomas Gnau

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Dayton City Commission is considering a request to hire a local company to provide airborne surveillance for police.

The commission originally was scheduled to vote on the contract today. However, city officials said Tuesday afternoon that a vote is being delayed until commissioners can discuss the proposal in a public work session next Wednesday.

According to an agenda the city released Monday, commissioners are considering a $120,000 contract with Persistent Surveillance Systems for wide-area surveillance for the police department. PSS has operations in Beavercreek, Xenia and at Dayton’s Tech Town business park.

Ross McNutt, PSS president, said Tuesday surveillance services would come from a piloted aircraft flying above the city at about 10,000 feet. PSS provides the plane and the pilot, he said.

The plane will be able to monitor an area as large as Dayton’s entire downtown, McNutt said. Only with reports of crimes or instructions from police would the company’s equipment focus closely on specific areas, he said.

PSS camera systems boast a sensitivity 10 times greater than that of IMAX cameras (8.84 million pixels), McNutt, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, said last year.

According to the proposed agreement with the city, PSS would provide 120 hours of airborne surveillance. Services will include installation, data capture, analysis and training for up to four police officers. Up to three analyst workstations will also be installed at Tech Town, as well, according to city documents.

PSS air- and ground-based camera systems have helped police departments in the U.S. and Mexico solve 34 murders, mostly in Mexico, McNutt said. “We’ve actually witnessed people kill multiple times,” McNutt told the Dayton Daily News in an interview last summer.

The company has also witnessed other crimes, including robberies, shootings and more, Mc-Nutt said Tuesday. The idea is to help police shed light on what happened and where participants in, or witnesses to, an alleged crime may have fled or travelled.

“We investigate reported crime,” McNutt said. “We start with an ongoing investigation or a reported incident, and we provide police officers information as to what happened, when and where.”

The company has worked for police in Compton, Calif.; Balti-more, Philadelphia, as well as for federal and international agencies.

Messages seeking comment were left with Day-ton Police Director and Chief Richard Biehl and other city officials.

Commissioners also are considering a $20,000 development agreement with PSS to build out and lease space on the second floor of a building at Tech Town.

The company’s lease will be nine months, with a four-year renewal option. The company is expected to invest $12,000 to build out the space, according to city documents.