Shawnee County, Kan., Sheriff Brian Hill announced Thursday his office will be flying drones over public roadways and pathways in areas of unincorporated Shawnee County that have seen increases in burglaries and thefts.
(TNS) — Shawnee County, Kan., Sheriff Brian Hill's office announced Thursday it will begin flying drones over public roadways and pathways in areas of unincorporated Shawnee County that have seen increases in burglaries and thefts.
It is important that the sheriff's office "be proactive in trying to find these criminals," sheriff's Maj. Shane Hoobler said at Thursday's meeting of the Shawnee County Commission.
The sheriff's office will hold three public meetings at area high schools to address questions and concerns that are sure to come up, Hoobler added.
"Technology is scary, or at least challenging, to some people," he said.
The drones will not fly over "private areas," Hoobler stressed.
The sheriff's office since 2017 has seen a 21 percent increase in crimes involving burglaries, thefts from vehicles and thefts of vehicles, Deputy Shayna Anderson said in a news release Thursday.
The drone initiative is being developed as part of Hill's effort to reduce those crimes, she said.
The sheriff's office already using drones, called "small unmanned aircraft systems," to aid with search and rescue efforts and to help create maps of crime scenes, Anderson said.
The department has four drones and began using the first in mid-2018, she said.
"The sheriff's office looks to expand the drone program to assist in deterring criminal activity," Anderson said. "The drones would be utilized over public roadways and public pathways in neighborhoods that have experienced higher rates of these crimes. They would be flown during peak times of criminal activity based on crime data."
Anderson announced plans for the sheriff's office to share information and answer questions about the drone initiative during public meetings that will be held at:
• 6 p.m. Monday in the choir room at Seaman High School, 4850 N.W. Rochester Road.
• 6 p.m. Aug. 19 in the auditorium at Shawnee Heights High School, 4201 S.E. Shawnee Heights Road.
• 6 p.m. Aug. 20 in the library at Washburn Rural High School, 5900 S.W. 61st.
Sylvia Bihler, who lives in Topeka, emailed The Capital-Journal on Thursday to express support for Hill's move.
"I'd rather have a drone flying around my private property — since I have nothing to hide — than have my car window broken again," she wrote.
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