One of four drones bought by government last year for the police in the fight against crime was successfully used last week to intercept a stolen car with two suspects and the seizure of a gun and marijuana. The drone was initially used last year in Enterprise when gang violence erupted and several people were murdered.
Sources said the Ministry of National Security gave the green light for the drones to be bought among new equipment for the police Air Support Service. Last Thursday was a revelation for the police in the use of drones. In that incident, Northern Division police responded to a report of men firing shots near Achong Street in Tunapuna.
Officers led by Insp Joseph responded and contacted the Air Support Services under Sgt Ronny Rampalad. When the drone was activated, it gave officers on the ground real time information about where the car containing the suspects was proceeding. Police later intercepted the Nissan Sylphy car at Goya Street in El Dorado.
Two men, aged 18 and 24, were detained and a German-made Luger semi-automatic pistol and over 180 grammes of marijuana were seized. They have since been charged with possession of arms, possession of ammunition and possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking. The suspects are also said to be assisting police in their investigations into other crimes in Northern Division.
Yesterday, Northern Division police said that was the first time they used a drone in an active police operation. With this success, the police intend to use the drones in a more active capacity and there is a plan to petition the National Security Ministry to acquire more drones so that each of the nine Police Divisions can have drones.
“This technology can greatly assist police in intercepting stolen vehicles, vehicles transporting kidnap victims or assist with surveillance on the ground as backup for officers on exercises,” a senior detective told Sunday Newsday.
Yesterday, Ag ACP McDonald Jacob said, “we began using the drones last year. Sometimes when we do exercises we will utilise the police mobile unit, which is outfitted with CCTV cameras and linked to the drones to aid in aerial surveillance. We also want to use these drones to ensure that police carry out their duties within the legal framework that governs the TT Police Service.”
He confirmed that video footage from drones, just as CCTV footage, is admissible as evidence in court cases and the use of this technology will help police in convicting criminals. Drones, another police source said, can also be used to locate marijuana fields hidden deep within forested areas or the hilly terrain of the Northern and Central ranges as well as monitor and locate criminals.
ACP in charge of anti-crime Irwin Hackshaw confirmed the use of the drones but added that its use was not previously made public for security reasons. He said that gradually, drones will be incorporated into anti-crime operations.
“The use of drones is part of the Police Service’s move to keep up with the changing times as we are fully aware that the criminals themselves are utilising technology to aid in their nefarious activities. New surveillance and intelligence-gathering methods will play a key role as we seek to arrest the crime situation,” Hackshaw said.