Video footage from the DJI drone shows how the Port Neches Police Department was able to apprehend a suspect in a theft case with the assistance of a DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced equipped with a thermal camera.
Officer Andrew Carter is the only person within the department who is Part 107 certified to operate a drone.
The drone's aerial video and thermal imaging capabilities give the police a significant advantage in their ability to locate suspects.
The Port Neches Police Department in Texas was successful in apprehending a suspect suspected of stealing telephone cables from AT&T with the assistance of a K9 unit, the DJI drone, and a neighboring police department.
On Monday, March 28, 2023, police officers responded to the Williamsburg and Industrial neighborhood after receiving a call about suspicious activity there.
An officer noticed a vehicle with no lights on it speeding away from the area as the police approached.
A release from the Port Neches Police Department states that as the officer attempted to bring the vehicle to a stop, a passenger inside the vehicle exited and ran away on foot.
The driver was taken into custody following the incident. It was discovered that both suspects were from Orange County.
The police have revealed to 12News that the suspects used a variety of tools, including bolt cutters and wire saws, to cut down the copper phone lines.
A perimeter was established in the area by law enforcement officers with the assistance of the Nederland Police Department.
Another officer from Port Neches arrived at the scene, used the DJI drone with a thermal camera to search the area, and successfully located the second suspect.
When the police drone was launched into the air, it helped authorities locate the suspect in less than fifteen minutes.
According to the release, a sergeant utilized a K9, and officers were able to successfully take the second suspect into custody without causing any further disruption.
“Scanning the area when we were looking for the suspect, we knew that one suspect ran one direction, but people try to outsmart us and he went the other direction. Well, we found him in that other direction a few hundred yards away,” said Drone Operator Andrew Carter.
Officer Carter is the only person in the Port Neches Police Department who is qualified to fly the department's drone, which has been in service for a year.
He claims that the drone is utilized for any type of call that requires a large police presence and to assist in catching people who are running away from police.
The aerial video and thermal imaging capabilities of the drone give the police a significant advantage.
However, even with the use of drones, they still need people with boots on the ground to assist in apprehending the suspects.
Captain Jesse Fournet of the Port Neches Police Department, who assisted with the takedown on Monday night, stated that once the suspect was in custody, they discovered additional evidence.
“The tools that were used to cut the wire from the poles,” Fournet said. “We found some wire and one of the suspects did have a gun on him, in a bag that he ditched when he ran.”
The Port Neches Police Department is hopeful that they will be able to use the DJI drone in a wider variety of scenarios in the near future.
“Search and Rescue if someone were to get out, say with Alzheimer's, they walk around the neighborhoods and they get in between houses, which happens with that thermal imagery, you're actually able to see it. You just can't hide from it,” Carter said.
According to Carter, the drone would make it possible for operators to see the person even if it was late at night if they were to fall into the water accidentally.
The DJI drone with its thermal capabilities is greatly appreciated by the police department.
“With technology pretty much ruling the world, it helps us in every way possible,” Fournet added.
Both suspects were taken to the Jefferson County Jail, and their names were not released.
The driver is reportedly charged with “theft aluminum/bronze/copper/brass,” and the passenger is charged with “theft aluminum/bronze/copper/brass” and evading police.
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