MANTECA, Calif. — Manteca Police are now using drones to help keep the community safe.
Officers have spent the past year working on research and training for the drones and they were officially put into use at the end of last year.
"Definitely a game changer for us in the officer safety realm," Det. Dave Bright of the Manteca Police Department said.
Bright has spent the past year working to learn everything he can about drones.
"I think that just being able to have the ability to get a vantage point that we didn't have before is crucial for keeping our guys on the ground safe," he said.
Bright is now a licensed FAA drone pilot.
Manteca Police has a set of three drones that can go up to 400 feet above the highest point on the ground.
"This would be something that we use in response to something. So, if we had somebody who was running, who was barricaded somewhere, who had fled into a field, the extra eye in the sky would definitely help in locating that suspect," he said.
One of their drones has two different cameras on it; one for daytime and the other is a special camera that can detect heat from objects in the dark.
"Often used in a fire setting where they're looking for hot spots, or in our setting, we can use that in an open field where maybe a person who's running is going to be putting off more heat than the surroundings," he said.
"If officers are searching the area for a suspect, the drone can go up. It's able to search in places we aren't," Sgt. Stephen Schluer, a spokesman for the Manteca Police Department said.
As this technology is still just taking off, Manteca Police want to increase awareness and be transparent.
"It's not going to be something where we're going to randomly go out into the field and cruise around Manteca and see whatever we can see," Bright said.
And the upgrades didn't end there. Last month, 29 security cameras were installed across the city strategically near bus stops and parks. This spring, they'll also be installing a handful of license plate readers across the city.
"We're a city of 81,000 and our department has just about 70 to 72 officers and so we are growing and as the city grows and our department grows. Our technology has to grow to keep up," Schluer said.
The Manteca Police Department is holding an open question and answer session for the community this Saturday, January 26 at 10 a.m. to answer any questions about how the drones will be used.
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