WENTZVILLE, Mo. – Last year, more than 670,000 drones were registered with the Federal Aviation Administration. However, they’re more than just expensive toys; drones have become one of the latest crime fighting tools for police departments across the country.
Whether it’s processing a crime scene, chasing down suspects, or finding a missing person, police—including the Wentzville Police Department—are now adding drones to their arsenals.
“Right now, we’re doing all our research, setting the foundation. And we’ve established our mission, developing our policy, and looking at the kind of systems we might want to operate,” said Wentzville Police Chief Kurt Frisz.
Chief Frisz is not alone. Over 350 public safety agencies have purchased drones, and most have been police departments. As the size and price of the machines continues to shrink, their popularity continues to grow.
The sheriff’s office in North Dakota was one of the first in the country to implement drones. They have flown over 170 missions thus far. Seven of those missions have helped investigators process outdoor homicide scenes.
“I would say that is a success story. That a small agency like the Grand Forks Sheriff’s Office is able to have an aerial asset that is able to document serious crime scenes like a homicide,” said Deputy Sergeant Al Frazier, Grand Forks Sheriff’s Office.
Chief Frisz said the investment could pay dividends down the road.
“…especially if we recover a missing child or when it comes to prosecution, being able to reconstruct a crime scene with that visual,” he said.
The stability and image quality are vital for police work. Once the Wentzville Police Department chooses their drones, they’ll choose the officers to operate them.
“I’m going to train a minimum of eight operators, so that way it’s available on all shifts,” Frisz said.
Each of those officers will go through a ground school training, have to take a knowledge-based test through the FAA and then get their remote pilot’s license.
Some privacy concerns have been raised by people who are worried about Big Brother watching from above.
But Chief Frisz said that’s strictly prohibited and it will really be just an observation platform for the department. But they can go into tight spots where helicopters can’t go.
“See on rooftops if there’s a threat from above or rapidly deploy in situations to advise officers and keep them and the public safe. It’s a force multiplier, another set of eyes in the sky,” Frisz said.
Eyes police hope will solve crimes and save lives.