Drone surveillance company changing St. Louis plans

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ST. LOUIS — The company that planned on doing drone patrols of the Gravois Park neighborhood is changing course. SMS Novel posted a statement to their website today saying that they will be withdrawing from Gravois Park and plan on doing a “beta test” in another unnamed St. Louis neighborhood. They have received pushback from St. Louis lawmakers and residents.

“We believe our program could have played a role in preventing a significant number of violent crimes in Gravois Park, especially those affecting minority residents. We are saddened to withdraw, knowing that our service could have enhanced safety, potentially saving lives and aiding in suspect identification,” states the drone service.

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The drone surveillance program proposed by a Washington, D.C. based company aims at deterring crime. Many Gravois Park residents and local politicians were opposed to it.

A recent Gravois Park Neighborhood Association meeting saw concerned residents seeking more information about the program. Questions were raised about if the company is affiliated with any local government and its potential uses. Some people expressed discomfort with the surveillance, while others hope for intervention from the city.

“In light of these challenges, SMS Novel Films has chosen to conduct the beta test in an unnamed neighborhood at a time of our choosing. Rest assured, our on-demand drone app service will remain available citywide.

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Additionally, we are excited to announce our intention to hire an additional 20 local residents to provide on-demand drone services, contributing to community involvement and employment opportunities in the St. Louis area,” states the drone service.

The company chose St. Louis, Memphis, and Los Angeles for testing of a drone monitoring program. Their goal is to deter crime. Founder Jomo Johnson previously told FOX 2 that his company is training pilots in St. Louis to fly drones that can be equipped with lights and loudspeakers.

Note: The video in this story is from 1/9/2024. That was before the decision to call off patrols in the Gravois Park neighborhood.


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