Chula Vista Police use drone for homeless outreach during pandemic

Chula Vista Police Drone
Posted at 4:23 PM, Apr 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-17 19:27:57-04

CHULA VISTA, Calif. (KGTV) - The Chula Vista Police Department is one of the first to use their drone to reach out to the homeless during the pandemic, according to Captain Vern Sallee.

The department was one of 10 in the nation selected as part of the FAA's Integration Pilot Project that created their drone unit.

Wednesday CVPD used their drone to fly over Chula Vista canyons full of encampments.

On the ground folks heard this message from the drone's speaker, "this is a public health announcement, this is the Chula Vista Police Department Homeless Outreach Team working with the County of Public Health and Human Services Public Health Nurse."

The message was read in English and Spanish and relayed where the tent with services was set up.

The team covered eight square miles, moving to four locations. They made contact with 16 people, three of which came to the tent for services.

"We brought along hygiene kits that were provided by the county. We have boxed meals that were provided by the food bank. We have a county nurse who is making health assessments of these individuals and we also have PERT clinicians who are making mental health assessments," Sgt. Ernie Pinedo with the HOT said.

"This is our effort to reach them and inform them about the threat of the virus and the increasing amount of services we're offering to them on a voluntary basis," Sallee said.

They spotted 26 encampments from the drone Wednesday.

They completed their mission in three hours, compared by foot, which would have taken around 20 hours.

Sallee said their mission was a success and they're coordinating a second mission, aiming for next week.

Sallee said hopefully they can continue to use the drone to reach dangerous and difficult to reach areas and build trust with those in need.