Drones and holiday crowds concerning police | News

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Drones and holiday crowds concerning police

ST. AUGUSTINE BEACH, Fla. -- A new concern is emerging with New Years celebrations, and it has to do with an item that was a popular Christmas gift: drones.

One police department on the First Coast is concerned about public safety when drones are mixed with big crowds. On Thursday evening, the St. Augustine Beach Blast Off will pull in thousands to the pier and parking lot.

The police department will not just be watching the crowd, they'll also be monitoring the skies for drones.

"We foresee drones out there," St. Augustine Beach Police Chief Robert Hardwick said. "I just have some concerns."

The Beach Blast Off has a family-friendly rating from Family Magazine. Hardwick also anticipates the crowd will be between 20,000 – 30,000 people. That's a lot of people in one place. Throw in some people flying drones, and Hardwick foresees some public safety issues.

For example, said Hardwick, "You know, they're flying over a crowd, not thinking. The next thing you know the battery goes dead and it lands on our crowd."

Or, the drone gets too close to an exploding firecracker, and it falls onto someone, causing injuries.

So, the police department is planning ahead.

"We're not going to seize them. We simply want to get them away from our crowds. So we're going to recommend people fly them away from our crowds and not in the center of our crowds, maybe the outskirts of our crowds," Hardwick explained.

Chris Stevens, who was onsite preparing for Beach Blast Off, is one of those who got a drone for Christmas.

"It's for fun," he smiled. "To let my dog chase it around the yard."

He wouldn't risk flying it too close to the fireworks and damaging his investment. But, he said, "It boils down to who is going to be responsible with it. There's people out there who don't care and will do whatever they want."

And that's why the police department is trying to educate people about drones and encouraging people to fly them safely.

"We appreciate everybody having a happy and safe new year," Hardwick added, "and using their drones wisely."


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