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10 March 2016, 05:36
Bedfordshire's Police Commissioner is asking for the public's backing for the use of police drones.
The county's Police and Crime Commissioner believes UAVs - unmanned aerial vehicles - will help prevent and detect crime and he is keen to see the police making use of the full potential of this technology.
But first Olly Martins wants to ensure the public are given reassurance that drones are safe and will not infringe on people's privacy. And as part of that he has begun consulting on what people think of the technology.
Some police forces across the country already use drones to take aerial photos and video of crime scenes. Devon & Cornwall Police also used a drone last month to help them search coastline for missing junior doctor Rose Polge.
Mr Martins believes it could only a matter of time before all forces have drones.
He said: "The more I learn about this technology, the more I can see real benefits for Bedfordshire Police in using them. We know there are huge challenges around police funding at the moment and I believe drones could prove to be an extremely vital, and cost effective, tool in policing our county."
The Commissioner said drones were not a substitute for police officers, or indeed for getting the 300 extra officers we should have if Bedfordshire was properly funded, but they could be a cutting edge aid to making the ones we do have more effective.
"Technology has always been the police officer's friend in helping come up with ways of giving them smarter tools to investigate crime and keep people safe. Used correctly, and with the right governance in place, there is no reason why aerial drones shouldn't be flying above Bedfordshire very soon."
Mr Martins said the force needed to make the best use of its overstretched resources and believes drones could help large spaces to be searched quickly, photograph crime scenes from above, survey road accident sites quickly - allowing roads to be re-opened faster.
"This is the same principle as equipping officers with body worn video, mobile IT, or my push for the GPS tagging of offenders. It is about using technology to make the officers we do have more effective," Mr Martins added.
He now wants to hear what people think about the idea of Bedfordshire Police using drones.
Mr Martins said: "I'm sure people will have a range of views but I believe that beginning a debate about this issue will help to create a better understanding of this technology and why they will prove such an asset in helping keep Bedfordshire safer.