Orange County Sheriff's Office adds 2 drones to high-tech arsenal

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - The Orange County Sheriff's Office bought two drones that officials say will give them a high-tech advantage over criminals.

But some people worry the new surveillance tools could be used in ways that will violate their privacy.

The drones are an eye in the sky that sheriff's officials said will be an invaluable tool in fighting crime and responding to emergencies.

For instance, if there were an issue on top of a building or parking structure, deputies could use the drones to assess the area while they're safely on the ground.

But some privacy-rights groups have voiced concern over the possibility that law enforcement could use drones to spy on citizens.

Dr. Ray Surette teaches criminal justice at the University of Central Florida. He said increased use of drones by law enforcement requires agencies to adopt strict guidelines on how they will be used.

"It's the undercover aspects that bother people," said Dr. Ray Surette

"They will have to be issued by and authorized by, every time they're used, by the high-risk incident commander," said Jeff Williamson of the OCSO.

But some lawmakers want even more protection, and a bill filed this session would prevent drones from being used to collect evidence except in extreme cases.

Each drone cost the sheriff's office $25,000, and officials there hope to begin using them by summer.

Baylor Johnson, spokesman for the ACLU of Florida, responded to the story:

“Any new surveillance technologies need strict rules and limits that control how law enforcement use them and protect individuals’ privacy. We have seen time and again situations when surveillance technology, nominally put in place to protect individuals, become sites of abuse.

“Unfortunately, history has shown that surveillance technologies put in place for one purpose inevitably expand into other uses. The result is a ratcheting effect: it’s relatively easy to increase surveillance in public, but much harder to remove it once problems emerge. That is the danger that these drones present – without strict rules protecting individuals’ privacy, they are a further step toward constant, permanent surveillance.”