You’ve probably heard about the recent revelations that Baltimore Police has used a high-tech form of cell phone surveillance thousands of times over the past eight years. The story was all over the news last week. But it seems as though the creators of The Wire knew about it more than a decade ago.
Careful students of The Wire will remember that Detective Lester Freamon uses sophisticated cell phone tracking technology to build a case against a group of drug dealers in season three. It’s not surprising that a show named after a piece of surveillance technology got its surveillance technology right. But it goes beyond that –according to emails Wire creator David Simon sent to the Baltimore Sun, the BPD asked the HBO show to refrain from using certain technological weaknesses (for example, their inability to track transmissions from certain Nextel devices) so that criminals wouldn’t know about them.
According to Simon, the show’s co-creator Ed Burns argued that “to highlight this vulnerability in our drama would have irresponsibly driven the communications of every criminal conspiracy into an impenetrable hole.” In other words, the BPD requested the show to not be too real. Pretty amazing!