It is hoped the technology will help tackle crimes including thefts and burglaries and also assist officers in detecting criminals operating in rural communities, around towns such as Edenbridge and areas close to the Sussex and Surrey borders. Drones can be used to survey extensive areas and allow officers to also monitor more closely other issues such as hare coursing and poaching, in locations where there is often no CCTV.
On 9 September 2021, the device was used to help locate a suspect who had travelled from Edenbridge in a car linked to drugs supply offences. The VW Golf was found abandoned at around 10.25pm in London Road, Tunbridge Wells, following a collision with another vehicle. An 18-year-old man who had been in the Golf left the scene on foot but, with assistance of the drone, was located following a search in nearby woodland. He was arrested on suspicion of dangerous driving and possession with intent to supply drugs. He was later bailed pending further investigation.
Sergeant Ed Kavanagh, of the Tunbridge Wells Community Policing Team, said: ‘A drone can cover large distances very quickly and relay back live images of suspicious activity which can sometimes be very hard to detect in often isolated areas. They allow us to carry out extensive searches, which ordinarily would sometimes require multiple patrols and police vehicles.’
The drone was also deployed during the latest targeted action between 9 and 10 September, to detect and reduce rural crime in areas including Cowden, Hever, Ashurst and Penshurst. The operation is the second one carried out this month and was supported by officers from the Rural Task Force, as well as colleagues from Sussex Police and Surrey Police.
Valuable intelligence was gained on movements of suspicious vehicles operating within and beyond the Kent borders, including an incident where a Renault Clio was stopped in Lingfield, Surrey and which was suspected to be linked to fuel thefts. Whilst no arrests were made, the driver didn’t have a valid driving licence and was unable to account for why he was travelling in the area. His car was seized by officers.
Sgt Kavanagh added: ‘Much of what we do to fight rural crime will continue to come down to good old-fashioned policing, as well as the vital help from members of the public. However, we are also confident about the benefits drones can bring in protecting our rural communities. They will undoubtedly enhance dedicated operations and assist regular patrols. We really do hope their increased use will also allow us to respond to incidents with greater speed and precision.’