First, a Zero Motorcycle unit, now drones could be brought into the crime fighting efforts in Escalon.
The Zero Motorcycle, an electric powered vehicle, was recently put into service for the department and Officer Carl Poortinga is completing his training on the unit.
“Hopefully we get him on the bike here in the next 30 to 60 days,” Escalon Police Chief Mike Borges aid of adding the Zero Motorcycle Unit to the regular patrols.
The motorcycle was obtained through a grant program of the Air Quality Control Board, as it is a zero emissions electric vehicle.
Poortinga did have the bike on display at the city’s Park Fete celebration this year, riding it in the parade and showcasing it for the crowds. The motorcycle can maneuver in tight spaces and offers a ‘stealth’ approach because of its electric motor.
Also, the department has purchased a drone. Or, more accurately, a UAS.
“It actually is an unmanned aerial system,” explained Borges. “It was approved in the budget for this year, we have purchased it, we have registered it with the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and are in the process of obtaining our waivers.”
Waivers are required for when the UAS is flown higher than 400 feet, Borges said, as well as for flying it at night and over crowds. Several department members have indicated they would like to receive training to operate the UAS and Borges said the department is eager to also get that additional policing tool in place.
The cost was close to $10,000 for the unit, which covered the base unit and an additional infrared camera system for nighttime flying, said the chief.
Training will be done in cooperation with the City of Ripon Police Department, which has two of the same model units as Escalon.
“Half a dozen of my personnel, from full time to reserves, have expressed an interest in being trained and hopefully we can deploy it by the end of the year,” Borges said.
Much of that time will likely be a waiting game, he added, waiting on the FAA to act on the waivers.
“We can’t use it for random surveillance,” explained Borges. “We can target areas where we have had a rash of thefts.”
Also, the UAS can be utilized at large gatherings as an extra set of ‘eyes in the sky’ looking for potential trouble or, in the case of activities where many vehicles are parked, be deployed overhead to deter vehicle burglaries.
It will also have the ability to take video and still photos. The addition of the UAS to the department will enhance the crime fighting effort, said the chief, and supplement the work being done on the ground by officers.
“For the cost, it’s a good value,” said Mayor Jeff Laugero.
“I’m excited,” agreed councilman Ed Alves. “I think it can make a major impact.”