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Police department uses drones to enhance emergency response

by Judith Hruz


The Montgomery County Police Department is using drones as a way to enhance its emergency response capabilities — and in a short time since the program’s start, it is already paying off, county officials say.

The new “Drone as First Responder” pilot program introduces an unmanned aircraft, with the call sign Raven, to provide critical support to the department and better serve county residents, police officials say.

The program leverages Raven’s capabilities to reach the scene of a call for service, either before or in conjunction with patrol officers.

What it will not do, however, is be used for random patrols over Montgomery County, Chief Marcus Jones said.

The drone “is not going to be just patrolling in the air,” he said.

“It will be flying as a result of 9-1-1 calls,” the chief added.

The approach aims to revolutionize emergency response by offering a real-time aerial perspective and strategic insights.

During a demonstration for the media, Marcus said Montgomery County is ahead of the pack in deploying the technology..

“We will be the first major city police department in the country to start this program,” he said.

Raven played a “pivotal role” in the recent apprehension of a 31-year-old man, who police say had targeted a CVS Pharmacy in the 9500 block of Georgia Avenue in Downtown Silver Spring, where items had been stolen on multiple occasions.

Third District police were called to the store on Nov. 15 at around 12:33 p.m., but the man left the store before patrol officers responded.

Raven was deployed and observed the man leaving the area of the store and getting on a Metrobus. The drone tracked the route of the bus, giving officers the location.

At the intersection of Georgia Avenue and Colesville Road, officers stopped the Metrobus at 12:50 p.m., taking the man into custody.

At press time, charges were pending for the Nov. 15 case and the investigation into previous shoplifting cases was ongoing.

In another incident, someone was breaking into cars on Eastern Avenue, also in Silver Spring. Using infrared technology, Raven tracked two men, who were arrested with weapons in their possession, County Executive Marc Elrich said during his weekly media briefing Nov. 29, applauding the program.

The Drone as First Responder program received unanimous approval for $350,000 in funding from the Montgomery County Council after being recommended by the county executive and the county police department.

The pilot program has been implemented in the urban areas of Wheaton and Silver Spring, which were selected based on staffing and crime trend analyses. The program could be expanded.

Raven’s operational objectives include:

Assisting in the assessment of scenes and circumstances before officers arrive;

Providing essential tactical information and situational awareness to enhance response safety;

Contributing to the de-escalation of situations and improvement of overall response times; and

Addressing staffing shortages and assisting public safety efforts.


    For more information on the program and to view Raven flight maps, visit https://tinyurl.com/mryhzwbb.



In photo:

Montgomery County Police Department is using drones as a way to enhance emergency response as parent of a pilot program known as “Drone as First Responder.” Chief Marcus Jones said the drones will not randomly patrol the air. “It will be flying as a r

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