Drones are no longer newcomers to public safety. Several agencies are integrating UAS into their response, including the Beverly Hills Police Department (BHPD).
A New Initiative
In December 2021, the BHPD began a trial program to patrol the Business Triangle, home to the city’s high-end fashion stores. After experiencing some initial success, the program expanded its operations to patrol large parts of the city. But perhaps the most important development is the drone unit’s evolution into a Drone as First Responder (DFR) program.
The “Real Time Watch Center”
The new DFR program is part of a broader initiative to leverage technology, including a “Real Time Watch Center,” for increased vigilance and safety. This social media post highlights the new command center, which displays data from traffic cameras, license plate readers, and drones. Centralizing this information results in what BHPD’s Lt. Robert Maycott calls a “3D incident command space.”
The department has deployed its drone frequently; in 2022, BHPD conducted over 2,000 flights. In over a quarter of the flights, the drone arrived on scene before officers. As a result, the department has experienced increased levels of situational awareness. In one clip they published, a pilot identifies a suspect at a restaurant who threatened to tase an employee. Before the officers’ arrival, the suspect’s identity is confirmed, and a description is relayed to the responding units. Officers promptly find the man and arrest him without any issue.
Recent statistics also support the effectiveness of the UAS program. According to Police Chief Mark Stainbrook, the initiative decreased property crime by 34% between June and September 2022.
This decrease is particularly remarkable because crime is generally highest during the summer; increased tourism and traffic often lead to spikes in burglaries. These favorable outcomes have encouraged the adoption of more proactive tactics, like regular drone flights over the city to look for suspicious activity.
What is DFR?
The efforts of the Beverly Hills Police Department reflect a growing trend in law enforcement agencies throughout the US. Rather than exclusively deploying drones at large incidents, some departments regard it equally effective to launch their aircraft for routine calls. This strategy, known as Drone as First Responder (DFR), ensures the safety of officers by providing critical information ahead of their arrival.
DFR is also a cost-effective solution. Nominal acquisition, operation, and maintenance costs enable smaller agencies to possess a native air support capability without the price tag of manned aircraft or a dependence on the resources of neighboring departments.
It’s also important to remember that the advantages will only continue to increase as DFR hardware/software products evolve. Currently, several mature solutions are in service throughout the country, with new developments promising to expand their applications.
Starting Your DFR Program
Is your agency interested in starting a DFR program? We can help! Backed by years of operational and technical experience, FLYMOTION provides the hardware, software, and consultation you need to build a successful program. You can contact us here or by visiting our website.
Beverly Hills Courier
City of Beverly Hills
The Los Angeles Times