Drones to track off-road criminals in Solihull, UK

Police in the West Midlands town of Solihull in the United Kingdom are deploying drones to parks and public spaces in the hope of catching off-roaders wreaking havoc in parks and other public spaces in the town.

The West Midlands Police department has a dedicated drone unit, affectionately known as Eye in the Sky; with 32 specially trained drone police officers working round the clock with drone technology for policing purposes like aerial photography, live-link or recorded video and thermal imaging. The drones are used to target criminals in crime hotspots; to capture vital evidence in areas where serious incidents have taken place; and during pre-planned operations to help keep people safe and secure.

Some of those drones are now sweeping parks and public areas in Solihull, following complaints from residents about bikes and trucks racing around during lockdown and endangering pedestrians, park walkers; vandalising the grass and generally disturbing the peace in the area.

“Solihull Police have reported that the issue of irresponsible drivers and off-road bikes is an issue that is once again on their radar across the borough,” said Councillor Alison Rolf, cabinet member for stronger and safer communities in Solihull, according to a report in the Birmingham Mail. “As recently as this weekend, teams carried out an operation supported by the central drones team … using drones to assist in early identification of offenders and to assist officers in locating persons involved.”

Cllr Rolf said that Solihull Council also considered the problem a serious issue and the authorities are drawing up an action-plan ahead of the clocks going forward.

Combating criminal activity by off roaders has been a challenge for police officers in the UK, given the country’s long-standing policy not to pursue bikes with patrol cars.

According to the report, areas like Meriden Park in Chelmsley Wood have also been plagued by off-road driver problems in recent weeks, with local councillor, Chris Williams saying the riders often scared residents and left a muddy mess.

“It’s not just whizzing through, some are going round in circles flicking mud everywhere almost deliberately,” Councillor Williams said. “They might find it fun but others find it very intimidating. People enjoy their daily walk – particularly at the moment – and it puts them off that outside place.”

Cllr Williams welcomed the fact police were taking “a proactive approach”, fearing that with the bikes a near constant presence many residents had simply given up on reporting them.

It is hoped that further drone operations will be carried out in the borough, although locally-based officers have to bid for support from the specialist unit, which assists with work across the West Midlands.


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