Drones and new look armed response vehicles are top be drafted into the fight against crime in Lancashire
Lancashire Police’s Tactical Operations Unit will use the drones for incidents including searches for missing people, monitoring football matches, firearms incidents, searches for cannabis farms and at the scene of road traffic accidents.
Two drones operating on a ‘tag team’ basis can provide continuous air support, covering more ground than officers on foot and providing them with a clear, aerial view of a situation.
They can also be flown in situations when the police helicopter is unable to deploy, for example during bad weather.
The drones have been rolled out as a permanent fixture following a three month trial last year, run in collaboration with Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service.
In November the drone team was called to assist with the search for a missing person in the Lancaster area who had not been seen for three days.
Officers had followed up several traditional lines of enquiry and when these had been exhausted they had put in a request for assistance from the police helicopter to help search a large area where the missing man could have been located.
Unfortunately the request was declined because of bad weather and the drone team was called on and located the missing man using thermal imaging within 20 minutes of arriving on scene.
The man was found in a dense wooded area, which would have been difficult and more time-consuming for officers on foot to have searched.
The funding for two high-end specification Aeryon R60 Skyranger drones has come from a Government funding pot of cash seized from criminals and Lancashire’s police and crime commissioner Clive Grunshaw.
A pioneering weapons storage system for use in ARVs is also in the process of being rolled out across the county in the first deployment of its kind in England.
The new design means weapons on board ARVs will be stored in a specially-designed safe, which will be both secure and easily accessible from the cab of the vehicles, so officers will not have to stop to get kitted up en route to incidents.
In April police were called to reports someone had made threats with a handgun in East Lancashire before fleeing the scene in a car.
A short time later the vehicle activated a speed camera and armed officers who had been deployed following the original incident were able to locate it and then quickly and the safely draw their weapons while on the move to bring it to a stop. Five people were arrested at the scene.
According to a police, had the officers only had access to the old weapon storage system they would have been faced with a choice of attempting to stop the suspect vehicle without weapons or risk it fleeing while they pulled over to get their weapons out of the boot.
Supt Julian Platt, operations manager at Lancashire Police, said: “Policing has changed a great deal in recent years – both in terms of the types of crime we deal with, and the ways we respond - and some of the processes and technologies that worked perfectly well for us in the past have needed updating to meet current operational requirements.
“We, and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, have invested a huge amount of resources into researching and bringing to reality these new pieces of kit and we hope it shows not only our commitment to innovation but also our commitment to giving our officers on the ground the very best and latest tools to help them as they deal with both daily business and major incidents.
“Our priority is to keep residents safe and feeling safe. From this perspective we have seen the benefit of both the drones and the weapons storage system already.”
Mr Grunshaw said: “It is absolutely vital that policing embraces new technologies and thinks differently, staying one step ahead of criminals whilst delivering the best service for the people of Lancashire.
“That is why I am keen to take advantage of any opportunities to drive innovation within the force, where this is cost effective, improves the way the force works and ultimately, helps in our aim to keep the people of Lancashire safe.”