Drones recently helped Arlington police officers catch a suspected criminal who was trying to run from officers.
The new tool is just one of the ways police are using technology to fight crime, but there are questions about privacy.
Arlington Police Lt. Chris Cook says the department’s fleet of 12 drone aircraft and the 10 police pilots who fly them are game changers for law enforcement.
“They are very nimble aircraft taking the play very quickly, and they operate at a much lower cost than a manned aviation system,” he explained.
Video shows a drug raid two weeks ago near Division and South Collins Street. SWAT officers pulled up to the home in two armored personnel carriers. From 400 feet above, the drone captured one suspect climbing out of a window and running off with a backpack full of drugs.
“Had it not been for the aircraft, we might not have caught him: number one. Number two: we would’ve had to put a lot of additional officers on the perimeter.” Cook said. “He had no idea that he was being tracked, or he wouldn’t have tried to throw his backpack down behind the shed where we were able to see everything that was going on. And not only that, we were able to send officers directly to his location.”
Sergeant Neil Landfield is the aviation team leader who flies the drones and relays information to officers on the perimeter.
“Anytime I can put a robot in front of a person, I get excited,” he said.
Cook says the drones will not be used to invade someone’s privacy.
“We don’t arbitrarily patrol over people’s houses. We don’t fly over citizens’ backyards. In this particular case, the drone was in the area of the operation where the search warrant was being executed,” Cook said. “When you have a runner, that’s considered an exigent circumstance. So the drone went higher up at a higher altitude just to keep a bird’s eye view on where the suspect was going. So privacy is not impacted in that manner.”
Cook adds the new drones are a great example of twenty-first century policing and working smarter versus harder.