Drone patrols coming to Gravois Park

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ST. LOUIS – In an effort to fight crime in St. Louis, a faith-based filmmaker from the Washington, D.C., area tells FOX 2 that drone patrols will soon be getting a test run in the Gravois Park neighborhood of south city.

With blue skies and sunshine, Tuesday afternoon was perfect for walking around Gravois Park, playing with the dog or lunching under the pavilion.

Things often change drastically after dark, however. A few residents have coined an unflattering and pretty frightening nickname.

“The ‘gunshot park,’ because you hear gunshots throughout the night all the time on a general basis,” resident Cynthia Reed said.

A new effort is set to lift off to patrol the Gravois Park neighborhood with drones. SMS Novel Films of the Washington, D.C., area has chosen St. Louis, Memphis, and Los Angeles for testing of a drone monitoring program with the goal of deterring crime.

SMS founder Jomo Johnson told FOX 2 that his company is training pilots in St. Louis to fly drones that can be equipped with lights and loudspeakers.

“If I’m with my squad, and we are planning or doing something crazy, and a drone is there lit up saying, ‘You are being watched,’ I might think twice,” he said.

“(Criminals) look for when they don’t see anybody around,” Reed said. “When they try to strike and do these things, they’re like, ‘Well, no one’s around to see this.’ The more aware people are of these kinds of things (drones), people are going to be more cautious to not do these kinds of things, too.”

Residents will be able to tap into a live-stream feed from the drones for free from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. over a two-week period starting in January, according to Johnson.

He hopes drones prove valuable, especially in neighborhoods with limited home surveillance systems on the ground. He says he’s currently working with a group of about 10 residents but is reaching out to police, St. Louis City Hall, and neighborhood organizations.

“Think about it: you’re able to cover a two square mile radius. How huge is that? After about two weeks, we’ll collect and gather information, talk to residents, gather their response to see if it’s beneficial, and also, we hope to work with law enforcement, too.”

After the test period, he says people will be able to book drone service on demand for $60 to $125 an hour, which he says is inexpensive, especially if the cost is spread out across an entire neighborhood.

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