Public Safety Committee looks at Pelzer police protection, drones

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By Stan Welch
The Anderson County Public Safety Committee met Monday, in preparation for Tuesday’s County Council meeting. They addressed two issues, the proliferation of privately owned and operated drones, and an arrangement designed to let the county provide dedicated police protection to the town of Pelzer.
Emergency management director David Baker presented the committee with his proposal, which was recently made to the Pelzer Town Council. The  basics of the proposal call for twenty four hours of dedicated police protection, at a rate of thirty five dollars an hour, or eight hundred forty dollars a week.
Baker assured both the town council and the committee that the officers who choose to take on the off duty shifts will be closely vetted to determine their commitment to a proactive, aggressive, approach to law enforcement. “If anyone is planning to come in and hide out and just draw their extra pay better think again. And they will be dedicated to Pelzer. The only time they will leave Pelzer is to respond to shots fired, or an officer in need of backup.”
The committee voted unanimously to send the proposal to the full council, with their recommendation for approval.
The committee then tackled the issues tied to private drones. The central issue is what authority the county has, or can attain, to enforce its own regulations on the operation of the increasingly popular unmanned aircraft. Councilwoman Cindy Wilson, a visitor to the committee meeting, reiterated her complaints that the FAA does not enforce its own regulations about drones; regulations which prohibit the use of the drones for voyeuristic purposes, their operation after daylight hours, and other prohibitions.
She provided a partial, but extensive, list of drone intrusion over the course of the period between October 2018 through Feb, including a number of incidents involving her and her family members. She also expressed her concerns about safety, stating that after hours operations are especially dangerous.
She stressed the invasion of privacy, citing several incidents when she and other family members have awakened to drones shining lights into their bedroom windows. She pointed out the potential from criminal activity, such as reconnoitering neighborhoods and other areas to determine the best time for break-ins and burglaries, or helping to deliver and retrieve drugs from unpopulated areas.
The committee members, including Chairman Ray Graham, conceded that the concerns were valid, but questioned both the level of authority the county could assume, and the willingness to provide the resources to enforce that authority.  Ultimately, county attorney Leon Harmon was tasked with researching the legal aspects of those questions.