New Bedford councilor wants to use drones to fight ATV riders
New Bedford Councilman Brian Gomes is once again suggesting that the police department embrace the use of drones to help fight crime in the city.
“They use them all over the country,” he said during an appearance on WBSM on Tuesday. “I don’t see why we couldn’t use them here.”
Gomes said he will table a motion at the next city council meeting, scheduled for April 28, to allow New Bedford police to use drones to patrol the skies to combat roving youth groups. who recklessly ride dirt bikes and ATVs on city streets. .
“It is difficult for the police to chase these things. They compromise traffic safety, they compromise the safety of people on the sidewalks,” Gomes said. “If you’ve seen any of the movies, it’s totally outrageous what they’re going to do with these bikes, so why not a drone?”
Gomes said it would be a way to track down illegal riders without putting officers at risk.
“There is no better way in the 21st century than cameras and the use of drones, and I will suggest this at our next city council meeting, to consider using a drone for this purpose, because it would provide security for our police, (and) we would be able to follow these guys to where they are.
Gomes had previously suggested using drones to combat increased gang activity in New Bedford in 2016, an idea that also seemed to interest then-Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro. It has, however, encountered resistance from the American Civil Liberties Union, with Kade Crockford of the ACLU of Massachusetts telling WJAR that drones should only be used if there is a warrant to do so, or in case of vital or fatal emergency.
“The government shouldn’t be involved in your business unless they have good reason to believe you’re doing nothing right, and they go to a judge and get a warrant to invade your privacy,” he said. said Crockford.
Gomes on Tuesday refuted the idea that drone patrol would lead to a decrease in privacy.
“These drones would be used professionally. These drones would be monitored,” Gomes said, noting that they would be monitored by a commander in the same way city surveillance cameras are monitored. “One thing people need to understand is that when you walk out your front door, you are in public view, so we can take a picture of you.”
If drone patrols were to be implemented, Gomes sees them not only as a viable option for hunting down illegal bikers, but also a daily tool for fighting crime in New Bedford. He said the police department already has two drones used for search and rescue operations.
“I know we already have some of these drones. Why couldn’t we start flying a drone early in the morning, monitoring our traffic flow, monitoring other things that affect people’s daily lives? I don’t see why,” Gomes said. “It would be part of the normal daily patrol.”
Gomes said while he wasn’t sure of the specifics, there would be certain regulations the drones would have to follow given the proximity to New Bedford Regional Airport. He also said officers could use drones to patrol the skies above the various festivals and events that take place in New Bedford each year.
A point made by Gomes is that while the drone’s cameras would be used for surveillance, they would not start recording until a crime was committed in order to track that crime and its suspects.
“You would handle it like you would with these cameras that I would like to put on the police,” Gomes said, referring to his longtime desire to have New Bedford police officers equipped with body cameras. “The drone would not start recording until a crime was committed, everything is controlled by the department.”
Speaking of police body cameras, Gomes had lobbied for some of the city’s $64.7 million in American Rescue Plan Act money to be used to purchase the cameras, but he was told that would not qualify under the federal government’s strict ARPA guidelines on how the money can be spent.
“The city council was told we couldn’t use ARPA money for police equipment, like putting police cameras on our police department,” Gomes said. “But we can use the money, and I thought we were told the wrong story, and I fought it then in the town council. Read a bit on it, we can use it for cameras.
Listen to Councilman Gomes’ call to WBSM at 5:10 p.m. from the podcast episode:
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