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Chula Vista Police Department's first responder drone program helps lead to arrests

Posted: 1:39 PM, Feb 12, 2019
Updated: 2019-02-13 02:33:00Z
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CHULA VISTA, Calif. (KGTV) - The Chula Vista Police Department’s drone program has contributed to 20 arrests since the initiative took effect late last year.

In June 2018, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) selected San Diego/Chula Vista as one of 10 drone-testing sites in the U.S. that are part of the Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program, or IPP. The program was developed to help the FAA in creating regulations when it comes to low-flying drone use by companies and cities.

The city of Chula Vista approved the use of drones for its police and fire departments in July 2018, and Chula Vista police began dispatching drones in late October.

According to Cape, a Bay Area company working with the police department on data management and drone telepresence, the drone program has launched its drones on more than 282 flights -- over 75 hours of total flight time -- without any incidents.

Police and the company said the drones have contributed to 20 arrests since October 2018.

Cape, in a press release, detailed one example of an incident utilitizing a CVPD drone:

“Among the many examples to date, the CVPD received a dispatch call describing the location of a suspect wanted for assault with a deadly weapon. Using the Cape-enabled drone, the CVPD was able to quickly locate the suspect, and communicate and coordinate with responding officers, while maintaining constant visual contact with the subject via aerial telepresence. Officers were able to safely arrest the suspect, who was charged with assault with a deadly weapon.”

According to police, the drones have multiple uses:

-- Documenting crime and accident scenes
-- Searching for missing or wanted persons
-- Observing active fires
-- Evaluating any damage caused by natural disasters or other major incidents
-- Drones are launched in response to calls within a one-mile radius of the 4th Avenue headquarters

Police said drones are used in a first responder capacity, adding the aircraft “are launched from the roof of the police department and fly toward the scene of incident such as a crime in progress, serious accident, officer in need of assistance, or any other incident where having advanced knowledge of what is happening at the scene before police and fire first responders arrive may add to safety and efficiency.”

CVPD Chief Roxana Kennedy said, “Since launching the DFR (Drone as a First Response) program, the program is already having a significant impact on operations and resource management. Real-time aerial visibility is critical when informing decisions, and in an emergency situation, is vital to the safety of our officers and citizens. “We’re looking forward to continuing our work with Cape, and expanding the DFR program to use drones to improve safety and efficiency, and reduce crime in Chula Vista. These early results are already proving the impact of the Drone as a First Responder model, and it’s an honor to be a part of shaping the future of drone integration in the United States.”

The police department’s drone team laid out its guidelines and other program information on the city’s website, including its response to any privacy concerns the public may have. Click here to learn more about the CVPD drone program .

“The Chula Vista Police Department is at the forefront of utilizing drones to enhance the science of policing,” said Chris Rittler, CEO of Cape. “As more agencies begin to adopt drone technology, Chula Vista will undoubtedly be the agency that others from across the country look to and replicate for emergency response and support. We’re proud to be a part of this initiative and to support one of the most innovative police forces in the United States.”

Cape said the two active CVPD drones are available for up to 10 hours per day for four days a week, but there are plans to increase usage.