Police drone expands Chatham crime-fighting arsenal
Camera on drone can track suspects, search for missing people or recreate accident scenes
Chatham police expanded its crime-fighting arsenal by adding a slick new drone that could help track suspects, find missing people or even reconstruct serious vehicle collisions.
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Investigators have used the $119,000 high-flyer about a dozen times since introducing it in May and already the device has shown impressive results, according to Sgt. Matt Stezicki.
"We have found that, with this resource, safety -- first and foremost -- has increased," he said. "And that comes in line with our mission statement of wanting to be the safest community in the province."
During a demonstration of the 2.2-kilogram drone on Thursday, four officers trained to use the new tool illustrated how they can easily track down a suspect on the run by using an infrared camera. That strategy improves safety for the public and for officers, Stezicki explained.
If the person is armed with a weapon, officers can now know an exact location and plan a much more effective strategy to get the upper hand.
"Their response can be planned a little bit better, rather than sending them into an area -- say a forested area or a field -- without that information," Stezicki said.
Very effective tool
Police can read a license plate up to nearly one kilometre away, but there are limitations on where the drone can be used. Those regulations include having the pilot within site of the device the entire time and the drone must not fly higher than 121 metres.
Officers can have permission to monitor certain areas or people, but that would require a highly rigorous court approval process.
When reconstructing a severe accident, the drone can be used to capture hundreds of aerial photographs that provide a highly detailed analysis of the area.
Stezicki expects police in other regions to introduce similar drones. He's already received calls from police asking how it works.
"We think it's extremely useful," he said. "Our main goal is to increase safety for the community and for the police, and to increase efficiency and response. We feel we're meeting those (goals)."