Residents of Sacramento, California, are upset about a city government drone they say is patrolling their neighborhood from the early evening through the wee hours of the morning, KOVR-TV reported.
The drone is “hovering over residential neighborhoods and looking down on homes” in Sacramento’s upper Land Park neighborhood, according to the report.
“The drone would fly over here, come over my neighbor’s house, fly over our house right here,” resident John Mattox told KOVR. “You come home from work, it would be operating, go to bed it was still operating, and this would repeat day after day.”
Other neighbors have also noticed it. “It just doesn’t feel good,” Ben Allen said. “It hovers around. You don’t know what they’re looking at and monitoring.”
Where did the drone come from?
Residents learned this week that the drone is owned by the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency. The agency manages the nearby Alder Grove and Marina Vista apartment complexes. Both complexes have experienced serious crimes, including a fatal shooting in January and a triple homicide in 2016, the report stated.
“We initiated the drone program in order to enhance the safety and security of our residents,” said LaTanna Jones, the assistant director for the housing agency.
Jones told the TV station the 5-foot-long aircraft operates between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. and has already discovered illegal dumping and trespassing.
Reportedly, the drone pilots have privacy protection measures in place.
“The drones are programmed so that they do not catch any footage until they get to about 200 feet in the air,” Jones said.
The housing authority maintains that the program is legal. But neighbors say it’s invading their privacy and is an inappropriate way to police a residential community.
“This is not an appropriate way to police the community,” Mattox said.
The drone is part of a 90-day pilot project that costs about $20,000, according to the report. Some residents want the Sacramento City Council to disband the program.
Are there any regulations for this?
A 2015 bill proposed restricting drone usage to 350 feet above homes without permission. At the time, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) vetoed the measure, stating, “Drone technology certainly raises novel issues that merit careful examination. This bill, however, while well-intentioned, could expose the occasional hobbyist and the FAA-approved commercial user alike to burdensome litigation and new causes of action. Before we go down that path, let’s look at this more carefully,” KOVR reported.