Apr 27, 2023 - News

City leaders want police drones at car sideshows

Illustration of a police light on a drone.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

A handful of city leaders want to bring drones to sideshows, where car drivers do donuts and other stunts.

What's happening: San Francisco supervisors and the city's district attorney are pushing for a new policy enabling the police department to deploy aerial drones during these events.

  • Supervisors Rafael Mandelman, Myrna Melgar, Matt Dorsey, Ahsha Safai and Catherine Stefani submitted a letter of inquiry this week asking the city's Committee on Information Technology to work with the police to recommend such a policy for full board approval.

What they're saying: Sideshows are "a growing problem in my district," Mandelman said at this week's Board of Supervisors hearing. "I think it's a growing problem, a greater problem in many of yours."

  • Drones, Mandelman argued, offer a better alternative to monitor the sideshows, identifying license plates and the people involved "all from a safe distance."

San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins called the proposal "a common-sense solution that will deter this dangerous behavior and provide useful evidence that will assist in prosecution," she said in a statement.

Yes, but: Using drones for surveillance comes with its own concerns, specifically around the misuse of such technology in residential neighborhoods.

What's next: The information technology committee plans to work with SFPD to develop a drone policy as it pertains to sideshows, its director Jillian Johnson told Axios via email.

  • That policy would then head to the Board of Supervisors for approval.

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