JPSO Tests Out Drone at Marrero Crime Scene

MARRERO, La. (WGNO) – Can drones help investigators at major crimes scenes?

Today the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office launched a drone to capture video of a crime scene from overhead. They say it’s a first. WGNO News Anchor Vanessa Bolano brings us the images and the great drone debate.

To some it may seem like something from out of this world. For the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Tuesday afternoon was a test drive.

JPSO authorities tell us deputies launched a drone for the first time over a crime scene in Marrero where 16-year old Stefan Johnson was killed.

Retired FBI Special Agent in Charge Jim Bernazzani says the feds have been using drones for some time now, but it’s the first time he’s heard of local law enforcement agents launching them here.

“Two things with the drones. One: they’re very cost efficient. One drone takes the place of approximately 20 surveillance personnel, and the second is that law enforcement doesn’t have to announce their presence now. They can fly in very quietly, do the surveillance they need to do, get the information back to the tactical people on the ground, and move forward,” explains Bernazzani.

Bernazzani says as long as their use remains public to public, meaning they wouldn’t be peaking inside someone’s home, they’re legal.

Marjorie Esman with the ACLU is concerned about privacy of the innocent.

“There’s no reason for the government to be engaging in surveillance of large areas and maybe watching what people are doing if they’re not suspected of any wrong doing, so the question has to be what will the drone get them that they couldn’t have gotten without it and what will happen to the images that they collect once their investigation into that particular crime is concluded,” questions Esman.

JPSO authorities are keeping tight-lipped about their drone operation for now, but they do tell us they’re exploring the possibility of using drones and would only use them for aerial video of a crime scene.

Bernazzani says eventually drone use may stop crimes before they happen.

“You may see, eventually down the road, drones in the skies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, just hanging around watching. As long as it’s legal, it’s public to public, there really isn’t a constitutional concern,” says Bernazzani.

Several states have placed restrictions on drones. Here in Louisiana lawmakers discussed the drone debate this past session yet no restrictions were put in place. For now the use of drones remains unregulated in Louisiana.

Drones have been used by several police departments across the United States, including the Houston Police Department. For a complete list of police departments and other government agencies using drones click here and here.

Below is raw footage of the drone: