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Crown Point to add drone to city inventory
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Crown Point to add drone to city inventory

CROWN POINT — City public safety, special events and engineering departments are hovering into a new tech era with the aid of a municipal drone.

The Crown Point Board of Works has approved a purchase, not to exceed $5,000, for a flying drone, equipment and certification for users.

The airborne devices allow high vantage points for surveillance and photos, including at crime scenes.

The city also will seek waivers through the Federal Aviation Administration for flying the drone at night, flying above crowds and flying out of line-of-sight, Crown Point Information Technology Director Adam Graper said. 

The unmanned aerial system would be used for public safety, engineering and special events, city officials said.

Crown Point Police General Services Officer Nathan Way, who has experience using drone tech, would be one of the municipal employees certified to use the city's drone.

"I think it's a great idea," Police Chief Pete Land said. "I think it's something we should do."

The city is considering a Phantom 4 Pro drone that costs about $1,500, not including accessories. 

Graper said other communities are using drones, including Gary and Valparaiso police departments, to assist in a variety of investigations, including locating missing people and taking aerial photos at crime scenes.

Valparaiso police Sgt. Mike Grennes has said drones are especially useful during missing persons investigations, allowing officers wider views of large areas within short windows of time.

Police officials in Valparaiso said state law limits how drones can be used in investigations, including prohibitions on gathering information in private areas without a warrant.

Valparaiso police IT Officer Phil Rochon previously told The Times less than 2 percent of law enforcement agencies nationwide had FAA certification to use drones.

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Lake County reporter

Rob covers urban affairs and other matters in Crown Point, St. John, Winfield and beyond. Previously he covered Valparaiso, Hammond, Gary and East Chicago. He's also written for various magazines and pens a culture blog for The Times.

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