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Grover Beach Police using drones to crack down on illegal fireworks

For the first time, drones will be used to spot illegal fireworks and zoom in on where they are being set off
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Posted at 8:47 PM, Jun 23, 2022

The Grover Beach Police Department is using new technology to crack down on illegal fireworks this Fourth of July.

For the first time, drones will be used to spot illegal fireworks and zoom in on where they are being set off.

They are equipped with loudspeakers and HD cameras that can zoom in to specific locations blocks away.

"That is what makes this drone unique is that it has a 200 zoom capacity on the camera," said Detective Matt Goodman, who is licensed to operate the city's fleet of drones.

The drones also boast infrared cameras, night-vision and the ability to measure distance.

"They're gonna be a couple hundred feet in the air and they will be able to see the different explosions of illegal fireworks that are occurring," said Grover Beach Police Chief John Peters.

A drone pilot and an observer will be watching for illegal fireworks.

Once a large firework goes off, that location will be relayed to two officers patrolling in unmarked cars.

"Last year, we documented 55 fireworks calls within a six-hour time span, we were only able to respond to 28 of those calls and the average time was about two minutes to respond," said Goodman. "With this, we'll be able to get there in seconds and determine if there's a violation or not."

Officers hope that the crackdown will prevent vegetation and structure fires caused by fireworks falling back to Earth.

"Previously in the City of Grover Beach, we did have one that went through a window and is suspected of being responsible for starting an apartment fire," said Chief Peters.

The city has a fleet of seven drones and 11 officers licensed to fly them.

"I believe it's an essential safety tool that we can use in the field," said Goodman. "We can use it for searching the interior of buildings before we send in an officer and put him in harm's way."

The drones are also used to fly into homes and businesses if a burglar alarm goes off, meaning that officers are not the first to confront someone who might be dangerous. They can also be used for search and rescue operations.

Police say that drones have been used 30 times so far this year.

Anyone caught setting off illegal fireworks will face a fine of $1,000.

The Grover Beach Police Department first used drones to monitor protests in 2020.