Saginaw County Sheriff's drone pays off with arrest of two suspects – ABC 12 News

SAGINAW COUNTY, Mich. (WJRT) – It was quite a first week for Saginaw County’s latest crime-fighting tool.
A newly purchased drone has already helped police arrest two suspects.
The initial idea in purchasing a drone was to possibly help in locating a vulnerable person who went missing.
It may eventually help in those cases as well, but its apparently helping in other ways.
Twice last week and late at night, police agencies in Saginaw County were looking for suspects. Searches like this can take hours, but a sophisticated drone might be changing that narrative.
An infra-red camera attached to a drone was instrumental in ending the two searches for people in Saginaw County last week.
One was for a domestic violence suspect in rural Richland Township and then a suspect in the break-in of a cell phone store in Saginaw. Saginaw County Sheriff’s Department Detective Ryan North puts the extra eyes in the sky.
“We can use the camera and look down and see a very large area, very quickly, and everything shows up black and white, well any heat signature, the mode that I have it set at is any heat signature will show up pink or red,” says North.
Police chased a potential suspect in the area and set up a perimeter. North directed two police officers to an area that detected heat. It wasn’t the person they were looking for, but a short time later, they did find him.
“He was hiding underneath a grill cover in the back of a residence,” says North.
Robert Harris was arrested and today was charged with breaking into and entering a building and malicious destruction of property.
“You can’t go pick this up at a department store and start flying it, they had to get special licenses from the FAA,” says Saginaw County Undersheriff Mike Gomez.
He says the sheriff’s department used a federal grant to purchase the drone and train two staff members. Total cost about $30,000.
“The concept of it is a new way of policing,” says Gomez.
“I’m glad that we are finally able to do this and its working,” says North, who came up with the idea of purchasing the drone.
Gomez says the department may purchase more drones if it can come up with more funding.
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