August 26, 2012
The city of Lancaster plans to launch a new aerial surveillance system to monitor neighborhoods for crime.
The technology, called the Law Enforcement Aerial Platform System, will be attached to a piloted single-engine Cessna.
It's basically a radar system that will give deputies a bird's-eye view of what's happening on the ground.
The tool is similar to drones that are used by the military to survey war zones, with the difference that those are remote-controlled rather than attached to a plane.
Authorities say the technology will prove invaluable for the city because it's so large and spread out, and deputies can't be everywhere at once.
It could also help during natural disasters like fires or earthquakes by providing an aerial view of the situation.
Opponents have expressed concerns about government snooping, but city leaders insist that the surveillance will only be used to fight crime.
The Sheriff's Department plans to deploy LEAPS for 10 hours a day, at a coast of about $300 an hour.That adds up to about $90,000 per month and more than $1 million per year -- a hefty price tag in the cash-strapped city.
But city officials say that it's worth the investment to combat a recent spike in crime.