EPD received grant for more thermal vision drones

Local officers hope the new drones will aid in the apprehension of car thieves.

The Enumclaw Police Department is enhancing its drone program, thanks to a Washington Auto Theft Prevention Authority grant.

Last March, the EPD started using drones around the city to aid officers in various tasks, from taking photos of car crashes to rescues and — in this case — car thefts.

The program started out with seven drones: four “quick deploy” drones mostly used for aerial photography and video, two smaller drones to fly into enclosed spaces for reconnaissance, and then the singular “Scout 1”, which comes with many bells and whistles, including being able to fly in inclement weather, reach speeds up to 51 miles an hour, and has spotlights, speakers, and thermal imaging.

But as of the July 24 Enumclaw City Council meeting, when elected officials accepted a $40,000 grant from the WATPA, EPD’s six drone-trained pilots will soon have their own “Scout 1” available in their patrol vehicles. This increase response time to situations where they would normally have to return to the station to retrieve “Scout 1”.

“The grant from the Washington Auto Theft Prevention Authority (WATPA) will equip each pilot with a patrol-ready quickly deployable thermal-equipped drone,” Chief Tim Floyd said. “This will assist pilots with locating suspects who flee from stolen vehicles as we can track their heat signature through thick bushes and trees.”

Auto thefts have been on the rise for the last few years.

According to the EPD, there were 36 local vehicles stolen in 2021. However, 29 were recovered, either by the EPD or outside agencies.

In 2022, 51 vehicles were stolen, and 34 were recovered.

And last year, 60 vehicles were stolen, and 52 were recovered.

“The rise in stolen vehicle activity in Enumclaw is no different than the rest of the state. The entire state has suffered a significant increase in stolen vehicles the last few years due to poor legislation and low police staffing levels,” Floyd said, noting that Washington is the 13th most populated state, but third in the amount of stolen vehicles. “The State of Washington is 51st in police staffing levels (i.e.- officer to citizen ratio) and has been the lowest staffed state for the past 13 years. Because of this, we need to leverage technology to assist us in our efforts to keep crime low in Enumclaw and being awarded the grant from WATPA will help with that.”