Would you be surprised to learn that the Department of Homeland Security has been flying surveillance aircraft around Kalamazoo?

The DHS said that its aircraft were involved with securing the nation’s borders, as well as targeting drug smuggling and human trafficking

Buzzfeed News recently released an in-depth look at the use of surveillance aircraft by the FBI and DHS across America called Spies in our Skies.

According to the groundbreaking report,

Each weekday, dozens of U.S. government aircraft take to the skies and slowly circle over American cities. Piloted by agents of the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the planes are fitted with high-resolution video cameras, often working with “augmented reality” software that can superimpose onto the video images everything from street and business names to the owners of individual homes. At least a few planes have carried devices that can track the cell phones of people below. Most of the aircraft are small, flying a mile or so above ground, and many use exhaust mufflers to mute their engines — making them hard to detect by the people they’re spying on.

DHS Surveillance Over Kalamazoo

Kalamazoo West Side Zoom
CartoDB via Buzzfeed

The blue lines on this map (see the full version here) represent Department of Homeland Security flights between August and December 2015. Interestingly enough, the flights were concentrated over one neighborhood of Kalamazoo near Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo College with the flights taking place in a tight circle between Main Street and Stadium Drive.

While the DHS did not reveal to Buzzfeed any specifics about any of their sweeps, they said in general,

The DHS said that its aircraft were involved with securing the nation’s borders, as well as targeting drug smuggling and human trafficking, and may also be used to support investigations by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.

So there is likely no answer to the question posed in the title of the article, we don't know for sure why DHS aircraft has been flying around Kalamazoo's west side.

FBI and DHS Surveillance Over Michigan

Michigan Drone Surveillance
CartoDB via BuzzFeed

Kalamazoo was the only location in West Michigan to be shown under government surveillance. However several locations in Eastern Michigan including Detroit, its suburbs, Flint and Port Huron were included in the sweeps with the DHS in blue and FBI in red. It's worth nothing that while Kalamazoo flights focused around WMU, there do not appear to be anything similar at other schools like Michigan State in Lansing, U of M in Ann Arbor nor EMU in Ypsilaniti or CMU in Mount Pleasant.

The Buzzfeed story on the surveillance programs is fascinating and you may read the full report here.

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