Neighbors, local leaders react to proposed south city drone patrols

Image source -

ST. LOUIS – A Washington, D.C.-based filmmaker’s plan to survey a south St. Louis neighborhood with drones outfitted with lights and loudspeakers is getting mixed reactions from neighbors and city leaders.

The idea behind the test run is to see if the drones deter crime. But some people feel it’s an invasion of privacy and an overreach. South St. Louis residents Morgan Downes and Dean Kneels agree.

“My initial thoughts are it’s kind of dystopian and makes me a little nervous about privacy,” Downes said. “I know that criminal activity is pretty frequent in this neighborhood, so I could see the potential of it being somewhat helpful, but I do have the privacy concerns.”

Kneels said he does not feel comfortable with the idea and doesn’t understand why this filmmaker chose his neighborhood.

“I mean, what does this guy in D.C. have to do with Gravois Park in St. Louis?” Kneels said.

15-year-old charged as adult in fatal carjacking from January

The two don’t feel comfortable with the technology being used to survey the area.

“We’re living in the future, I guess,” Downes said. “Technology is taking over!”

But not everyone feels that way. Latosha Mayfield has lived in the Gravois Park neighborhood for nearly 20 years. She said she welcomes any potential crime solutions with open arms.

“I’m really hoping this drone will come through and make them scatter; scare them,” Mayfield said. “They look up, see something, and change their mind. I’m hoping they do.”

But Mayfield fears the extra surveillance won’t make much of a difference.

“I don’t think they’re scared of being watched, because there’s cameras everywhere, and they still do it,” Mayfield said. “They just don’t care.”

SMS Novel Films of the Washington, D.C., area has chosen St. Louis, Memphis, and Los Angeles for testing of a drone monitoring program. 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. 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 said he’s currently working with a group of about 10 residents but is reaching out to police, St. Louis City Hall, and neighborhood organizations.

After the test period, Johnson said 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.

FOX 2 asked St. Louis Alderman Shane Cohn about this proposed drone program. Cohn provided the following statement:

I just heard about it on fox2 this morning. I have not been consulted or in contact with this private entity. Since seeing the story, have reached out to city officials to see if they’ve been in contact with anyone in city government.

To my knowledge, they don’t have any type of authorization or permit to proceed, but I am looking into this further.

A private entity charging citizens to utilize/watch vigilante drone footage is ridiculous, and does nothing to deter crime, and only sacrifices citizen’s liberty at the hand of ill-fated security measures.


Never Miss A Story

Get our Weekly recap with the latest news, articles and resources.
Cookie policy
We use our own and third party cookies to allow us to understand how the site is used and to support our marketing campaigns.

Hot daily news right into your inbox.