A plan to patrol Lancaster, Ca., with an airplane that would record the movements of people on the ground has stoked the concerns of civil liberties advocates while being embraced by some residents who say they would support any means to crack down on crime, reports the Los Angeles Times. The plane would circle the High Desert town 16 hours a day, recording video footage that would be transmitted to law enforcement officials. The plane, its designer said, would fly at an altitude of about five miles, making it all but invisible to residents. City officials said they believe Lancaster would be the first city in the nation to employ such an aggressive aerial surveillance system.
A high-tech video camera could spot a home invasion robbery, detect car accidents, and dispatch the appropriate personnel, and track unsuspecting criminals, according to local city and law enforcement officials. They contend that it would also improve response time. “This is an incredibly valuable resource that can be utilized at any minute for legitimate reasons,” said Mayor R. Rex Parris. Some residents, community leaders and civil rights advocates fear the system would border on government-sanctioned snooping and could be used to spy on law-abiding citizens as they go about their daily activities, even peeping into their backyards. “If there is nowhere for criminals to hide, there would be no place for anyone to hide,” said Peter Bibring of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.