Antioch's drone usage to target sideshow participants raising privacy issues

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Thursday, April 4, 2024
Antioch's drone usage to target sideshows raising privacy issues
As the city of Antioch is using more drones to target sideshow participants, privacy issues are being raised.

ANTIOCH, Calif. (KGO) -- If the Antioch police didn't catch all the drivers from Sunday's early morning sideshow, Mayor Lamar Hernandez-Thorpe says its drones will.

"The drone technology captures license plate information, captures people's faces. The cameras are very good," explains Mayor Hernandez-Thorpe. "We have cameras at some intersections as well. It sometimes take a few weeks to find people who were involved, but we usually find them and go and impound their car and cite them."

The mayor says the drone technology has been in use for the past three years. But last year's Antioch police texting scandal decimated the department. That lead to an increase in sideshows since there were fewer officers to respond. Or operate drones.

Hernandez-Thorpe says the police were able to quickly shutdown it all down within 30 minutes. That's because Antioch is starting to build back the police department.

"We have hired more officers. We have six at the academy currently, 12 entering the academy in May. And we have 40 patrol officers which is an increase of what we have had in the past," explains the mayor.

MORE: How Racial Justice Act violations from Antioch PD texting scandal will affect murder case

There are now more officers to operate the drones. And to take on proactive efforts that include investigating online to learn about where and when these sideshows are being organized.

"With having someone investigate and find these sideshows being organized online, on social media, is more effective than even responding. We are proud of the efforts we are making in that regard," says Mayor Hernandez-Thorpe.

"The cops came in groups, so it was really good. They shut it down immediately," says Sequoia Tomahn, an Antioch resident, who also works at Antioch City Hall.

She lives near the intersection so she saw Sunday's sideshow. She supports the police using drones.

"I think with the drones, and newer technology, it can really help the police capture the violence and things like that that's happening," says Tomahn.

MORE: 5 hurt in crash as officers break up East Bay sideshow, CHP says

But the use of drone is raising privacy concerns.

Tanisha Garrett is the chairwoman for the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, or ACCE. It is a statewide organization that fights for policies and programs that help to improve communities. Her concerns center around how the data collected will be used by police.

"The laws that are on the books I'm sure, say certain things. And we know them to sometimes go above and beyond. We want to make sure they are doing their jobs and not letting drones do it all for them," says Garrett.

Mayor Hernandez-Thorpe says he also has concerns about how video cameras are used. But he still supports using drones.

"In this instance, we are using them to capture individuals, who have broken the law and disturbed the peace. And so we are using that technology to find people and hold them accountable," says Mayor Hernandez-Thorpe.

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