Riviera Beach Police take crime fighting to new heights

Riviera Beach Police now have a drone. (WPEC)

Police and fire departments in the U.S. are buying more drones than ever before.

Several agencies in our area are jumping on board.

Riviera Beach Police unveiled a new tool aimed at fighting crime from a new perspective, but it does have its limitations.

The buzz surrounding drones is now catching the eye of local law enforcement agencies.

“The drone is an exceptional tool because it has the ability to cover large amounts of area and give you a bird eye view,” said Leonard Mitchell, Acting Assistant Chief of Police.

At first look, this drone may look like a toy but then it takes flight.

“We call it a poor man’s air unit,” said Ben Sheehan, Riviera Beach Police Department Technology Specialist.

“We are a smaller agency. We don’t necessarily have 24 hour access to a manned helicopter

The unmanned aerial vehicle quickly heightens the chances for safely tracking down criminals and deploying patrols.

“So a lot of the same things you would call out a helicopter for search and rescue missions, felons on the run even clearing roof tops for guns,” said Sheehan.

Sheehan is certified by the Federal Aviation Administration to operate the drone.

While the drone is a valuable tool for the department, Sheehan says there are some limitations.

“Florida has one of the most restrictive UVA Laws,” added Sheehan.

“I can’t use this to patrol neighborhoods or look at in your back yard. There are very limited exceptions I am allowed to operate under.”

“The Riviera Beach Police Department plans to purchase additional drones in the future.

Sheehan estimates the department spent about $2,900 to purchase the drone and corresponding equipment.

At least 347 police and fire departments in 43 states are using drones for search and rescue operations to surveillance, according to an April study conducted by "Bard College's Center for the Study of the Drone."

Martin County Fire Rescue, Palm Beach Gardens Police and firefighters and the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office and Fire Rescue also have drones.

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