Anderson County Sheriff says new drone fleet on the way

Speaks to Piedmont Crime Watch
By Stan Welch
Anderson County Sheriff Chad McBride spoke to a standing room only crowd Tuesday night at the Piedmont Crime Watchers meeting. Technology being implemented by the ACSO was the keynote of the presentation, as McBride told the crowd about the officer body cams that are being assigned to the patrol officers. The one hundred twenty five cameras were obtained with grant funds, but in eighteen months, they will become the department’s responsibility.
“Our younger officers are really excited about the new cameras. Those of us with a couple of decades of duty under our belts are a little more leery. But the increased accountability is important, and the fact is that body cams protect everyone by taking the ‘he said/ she said’ element out of the process.”
McBride also announced the rollout of a new drone fleet the department will be using in the future. Four drones, each controlled by an FAA certified pilot, will be used in instances where time is especially critical; such as a lost child or an endangered person. He also touted the economic aspect of the change. “We have gotten rid of one of our two helicopters. The drones will be much more effective and efficient. We can have them in the air very quickly. Each has a patrol radius of five miles. And let me tell you, rechargeable batteries are a lot cheaper than aviation fuel.”
He then moved into a review of his administration’s performance in the last three years. According to FBI statistics, burglaries are down thirty per cent; vehicle break-ins are down forty per cent; grand theft auto is down ten per cent; drug arrests are up eighty per cent and murders are down forty two per cent. He informed the audience that the administration staff had been cut in half, from sixteen to eight. “It makes for a heavy work load for those of us still left, but we are committed to reducing that staff,” said McBride.
He also mentioned the need to replace the department’s aging weaponry, citing his strategy to replace twenty per cent of the arsenal each year over five years. He stated that all out of date bullet proof vests have been replaced, and every officer is protected by working equipment. He is using the same replacement strategy on the department’s aging fleet of vehicles as well.
“Past administrations looked to replace all those vehicles at once, which made it very difficult budget wise. The Council has been very supportive of our needs, but it never hurts to make it as painless as possible.”
He then reminded the audience of  what anyone living in Piedmont knows already: drugs fuel crime. McBride pointed out that the presence of meth labs is down in the area, but he explained that meth is so cheap to make nowadays that most of it is being manufactured in Mexico and shipped across the southern U.S. border.
The topic of a new jail came up, and McBride made it clear that construction is not a matter of if, but of budget needs. “We have approximately 450 inmates  in custody on any given day. We ae permitted for a maximum of 250. The situation is unsafe, for both staff and inmates. On a given shift, we have fourteen detention officers managing four hundred plus inmates. That is really unacceptable.”
In response to a suggestion that he bring back the chain gangs of old, McBride pointed out the shocking fact that approximately ninety per cent of those incarcerated have not been to court yet. ”These people haven’t been convicted of anything. I can’t use them for labor. They are innocent until proven guilty. Just that simple. The average wait for a hearing on the case is 90 days. We have some inmates who have been waiting for two years for a court date.”
A feasibility study to determine the details of the new detention center is complete, but the results have yet to be presented to McBride or the Council for study and review.