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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios.

Baltimore will become the first city in the U.S. to pilot aerial surveillance, funded by philanthropists, to understand its impact on crime, per the Baltimore Sun.

Driving the news: Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, who's been skeptical of the effectiveness of surveillance planes, has reversed course and said he supports a pilot program to let three private planes monitor the city from above.

Why it matters: The use of surveillance planes has been a controversial topic in Baltimore since 2016, when Bloomberg reported private surveillance planes had been circling the city in secret.

  • On one side of the debate are advocates, including the ACLU, who say use of the planes — called "spy planes" by some — will be a drastic privacy invasion.
  • On the other are community groups searching for ways to curb crime and record-high homicide rates.

How it works: The program is run by Ohio-based Persistent Surveillance Systems, which is backed by Texas billionaires Laura and John Arnold.

  • Three planes would record during daylight hours from 8,500 feet above the ground, but would not be used for real-time surveillance. Instead, law enforcement could use the footage to investigate past crimes, per the Sun.
  • "By funding a limited-duration pilot and a fully independent evaluation, we hope to learn whether this technology can be a useful part of Baltimore’s crime reduction strategy," Arnold said in a statement.
  • The 4-to-6-month pilot will begin in May. Harrison said he would halt the program if it doesn't show results.

Of note: Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan support the decision.

Go deeper: Baltimore wrestles with aerial surveillance

Go deeper

Updated 11 mins ago - World

Reports: Up to 17 U.S. missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince earlier this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

Children were among up to 17 American Christian missionaries and their relatives kidnapped by a gang in Haiti on Saturday, the New York Times first reported.

Details: The missionaries had just left an orphanage and were traveling by bus to the airport to "drop off some members" and were due to travel to another destination when the gang struck in Port-au-Prince, Haitian security officials said, per the NYT.

2 hours ago - World

Melbourne, "world's most locked-down city," to lift stay-at-home orders

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews during a news conference in Melbourne, Australia, on Sunday. Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Melbourne's stay-at-home orders will end five days earlier than planned, officials in Australia's second-biggest city announced Sunday.

Why it matters: The capital of the state of Victoria has had six lockdowns totaling 262 days since March last year. That means Melbourne spent longer under lockdown than "any other city in the world" during the pandemic, Reuters notes.

Venezuela suspends talks with opposition after Maduro ally extradited to U.S.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, in June. Photo: Gaby Oraa/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key ally of Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro was extradited from Cape Verde to the U.S. Saturday to face money laundering charges in Florida, Bloomberg first reported.

Why it matters: Venezuela's government called off negotiations with opposition officials that were scheduled for Sunday in Mexico in response to the extradition of Alex Saab, a Colombian businessman and financial fixer for Maduro. Security forces placed six U.S. oil executives under house arrest later Saturday, per AP.

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