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The progression of drone use in criminal investigations by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office



Rochester, New York – Drone technology is being used more and more frequently in a variety of industries, including law enforcement. The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office didn’t have a single drone five years ago. They currently have a number of flying cameras under their control and a large team working exclusively on their operation, including Deputy Sheriff Matthew Whiting.

“We’re able to utilize our resources and cut down on the amount of time everybody is out on that scene. We’re able to free up patrol units, we’re able to free up investigators, we’re able to free up anybody to get back to answering jobs,” Whiting said. “That way, they can provide the community a better service without having to wait that much longer for a deputy to respond or an investigator to get to the scene.”

These days, drones are equipped with interchangeable cameras, including thermal imaging cameras that help the police find missing people or a hot spot in a building fire. The devastating apartment fire at the Pines of Perinton earlier this year was one of such incidents for MCSO.

“The video stream that we were providing showed them where things were, even if it was just where their resources were or where a hotspot was, it showed them what they were doing to accomplish their task of knocking down the fire,” Whiting explained.

Also noteworthy is the deployment of drones by the sheriff’s office during the East Rochester police incident last month, which was connected to the closure of Rochester General Hospital as a result of a social media threat. “Having the drone go inside the building, inside the home, a building or warehouse, we’re able to have intelligence before going in there that we normally wouldn’t have,” Whiting said.

While this technology may appear cutting-edge at this time, according to Whiting, its progress has only begun.

“It’s a growing field that as technology grows, and as resources become more available, we’re looking to grow on the manpower side and the equipment side. So, it’s getting larger because the benefits far outweigh the risks of sending in people in an unknown situation,” Whiting said.

At this time, MCSO has five drone pilots in its fleet of deputies.