By EILEEN MCCLORY
The Findlay Police Department recently purchased over $80,000 worth of equipment — including two drones — to be used for surveillance, crowd control and preventing thefts.
The equipment “is going to give officers the ability to see what’s going on all around them,” said police Lt. Ryan Doe.
Some Findlay residents may have seen one of the new pieces of equipment after the storm on Nov. 5. It’s a white box with a 36-foot mast with lights, cameras and solar panels.
Police bought the mobile surveillance trailer for about $45,000 from a Minnesota company called Mobile Pro Systems.
The trailer primarily runs off of the solar panels and batteries, but has a backup generator.
The department used the trailer for the first time while evacuating Highland Estates, a Findlay mobile home park, after the storm caused a gas leak there. Doe said police used the trailer for 14 hours, running lights and surveillance cameras together. The backup generator only kicked in for about 20 minutes.
“It’s pretty efficient,” Doe said.
Besides helping with weather situations, the trailer could also be used to survey high-theft areas and help with crowd control. All officers will be trained on how to use the system’s cameras.
Residents may see more new equipment soon in the city. The department recently bought two drones.
The drones could help officers look at crime scenes and crashes, track suspects through wooded areas and cornfields using infrared camera technology, and survey crowds during large events.
“We’re looking into how other departments use drones,” Doe said. “We’re looking into how we can better use them.”
The police department and the city water department shared the cost of the two drones. The water department will use them to inspect the city reservoirs and to look at algae blooms in the water, Doe said.
Total cost for the drones and their supplies was $37,733. The cost included both drones, cases, multiple batteries, screens, controllers, two cameras, mapping software, training for six people, quarterly inspections, updates and accessories.
Doe said five officers, including himself, are trained to use the drones. The officers need to be licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) before they can fly the drones officially, which will likely occur around mid-December, Doe said.
Officers also need to get special permits to be able to fly drones close to people, at night, and close to the airport, he said. Those permits will likely take longer to complete, as officers must already have a drone license before applying for a special permit.
The larger drone, a Matrice 200, is capable of carrying cameras, including an infrared camera, and has the ability to take longer flights. The smaller drone, a Phantom 4 Pro, has a fixed camera.
Doe said the department will comply with all FAA regulations when flying the drones, and the police department is setting its own policy on drones to avoid infringing on civil liberties.
“The policy will be limited, and will replicate Toledo’s,” Doe said.
The police department will continue to consult with the prosecutor’s office before gathering evidence, and obtain search warrants as necessary, Doe said.