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The Aerial Investigation Research (AIR) pilot program was a Baltimore Police Department program in which manned aircraft equipped with cameras gathered evidence to support crime investigations. It ran from May through October 2020. The program was meant to provide evidence for four types of crimes covered by a memorandum of understanding (MOU): murders, shootings with nonfatal injuries, armed robberies, and carjackings. These crimes are referred to as MOU crimes.

In this report, researchers describe AIR program implementation and the number of MOU crime investigations that were and were not supported by AIR program evidence. Researchers examined the association between receipt of AIR evidence and the rate at which crimes were cleared or solved and surveyed detectives on their opinions of the usefulness of the AIR program.

Across MOU crime types, 27 percent of cases with AIR evidence had been cleared by arrest or exception, compared with 19 percent of cases for which no AIR evidence was available. Similarly, 32 percent of cases with AIR evidence were provisionally solved, compared with 23 percent of cases for which no AIR evidence was available. After constructing a more-interpretable comparison between AIR cases and a matched subset of non-AIR cases that were similar to the AIR cases in terms of when and where they occurred, AIR cases had statistically significantly higher clearance and solved rates than comparison cases.

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The research described in this report was sponsored by Arnold Ventures and conducted by the Justice Policy Program within RAND Social and Economic Well-Being.

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