Beverly Hills’ New Cop on the Beat Is A Drone

Add Beverly Hills to the growing number of law enforcement agencies in California and nationwide that can boast of significant reductions  in crime since purchasing their first drone.  The city’s police department introduced its new “Hawkeye” drone last week with a social media post that included a video of the drone in action.  In fact, the department has been using drones in various capacities for over a year.  And they’re getting results – fast.

Originally designed for routine patrols in the city’s high-crime business district – the scene of a nasty spike in “smash and grab” robberies in 2022 – the drone now conducts ongoing patrols throughout the entire city – indeed, anywhere “suspicious” activity may be detected.

In recent weeks the drone was dispatched to investigate citizen reports of street assaults and even loiterers that seemed to pose a nuisance threat to their fellow citizens,  And thanks to a central command center – dubbed “Milestone”” – that coordinates rapid-reaction responses based on a citywide network of surveillance cameras, Hawkeye and other police drones usually arrive on the scene before beat officers do, giving the department a decided crime-fighting edge,

The city’s drone, with their rapid mobility and long-range surveillance cameras, can direct their colleagues on the ground in their pursuit of criminal suspects all the while providing continuous real-time reporting as crime incidents unfold.  And unlike police helicopters, which are slower and more costly to operate, drones can hover quietly, at higher altitudes, unbeknownst to perpetrators.

Beverly Hills cops are ecstatic about the results.   “I’ve been on the job for 28 years,” Lt. Robert Maycott said in the police video posted online. “We didn’t have what I call now the 3D incident command space, which allows us to use drones, Milestone, and other technology to enhance the officers’ operational ability.”

The department’s expansion of its drone patrols beyond the downtown business district has raised some eyebrows.  In fact, it’s just the kind of “mission creep” that has many police drone critics worried.  But for Beverly Hills law enforcement, it makes perfect crime-fighting sense.  They insist they have no intention of using drones to spy on local citizens, including those engaged in lawful civic protest – an issue that has arisen elsewhere.

So far citizen complaints have been few.  And for good reason:  Crime in Beverly Hills has dropped precipitously – by a whopping 34% between June and September – since drones were first added to the Milestone system at a cost of $498,000 last April.

In fact, the city has already approved more than $2.4 million in new funding to expand its drone program still further in 2022-23.

Beverly Hills is only the latest police jurisdiction in southern California to bank on drones.  Police departments in nearby Los Angeles and Burbank and in Chula Vista further south near San Diego are also big drone boosters.  All told, more than 60 local police departments in California deploy drones – the second most in the US  after Texas.

It’s hard to argue with success.

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