Hartford City Councilors Weigh Benefits of Drone Use

Possible uses of the drones include police tracking illegal ATV use, firefighters scoping out a burning structure, or city staff checking a property for tax assessment

Are drones a new crime-fighting tool? Or a way for law enforcement to spy on people?

Those questions are part of the debate as the City of Hartford considers launching its own drones.

“When you hear the use of drones in policing neighborhoods it sets off an alarm,” Chamar Logan of Hartford said.

Logan and others are looking for answers about the idea of surveillance technology buzzing in the sky over Hartford.

“I really wanted to know why the drones would be used, what was the purpose for it,” Logan said.

On Thursday, community members could pose questions to a panel which included city councilors and police.

The YWCA Hartford Region put on the event, which comes as rules are being drafted at City Hall for city-owned drones.

“We wanted to make sure the community weighed in on how these ordinances were created that would govern how these drones were used,” Melinda Johnson, YWCA Hartford Region Director of Community Engagement and Advocacy.

City councilors pointed out possible uses for drones:

  • Police tracking illegal ATVs on city streets.
  • Helping firefighters scope out a burning structure.
  • City staff checking a property for a tax assessment.

Councilwoman Wildaliz Bermudez says in the past technology has often been rushed into use.

“This is the first time we’re saying hold on a second, we want community input in this process of new surveillance technology and we want to make sure it protects people’s rights and civil liberties,” Bermudez said.

One proposed ordinance would leave it up to city departments to come up with their own policy, while a second plan would more tightly regulate drone use.

Some are still on the fence if the benefits of drones outweigh the concerns.

“I just think the use of drone technology is such a wide open thing. It’s so subjective. And you have to make sure the right people are using it for the right reasons,” Logan said.

Right now city councilors say there is no timeline for how soon the drone policy will be done. But they say police would like it in place for this summer so they can use the drones to catch the ATVs.

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