Renton Police Dept. becomes first in state to use drones to investigate crime, crash scenes

RENTON, Wash. -- The Renton Police Department is the first in the state of Washington to start using drones to help investigate crimes and serious accidents.

At Ron Regis Park in Renton Wednesday morning, a drone hovered over a mock crash scene.

The crash scene was set up by Renton police to demonstrate how the drone is used to help gather information at an accident scene.

The drone is seen moving around to take all the pictures it needs to measure and document everything at the scene.

“The biggest thing we noticed is we are in and out of scenes way faster than we used to be,” said Chad Karlewicz, a commander with the Renton Police Department's Patrol Services Division.

In minutes, the drone can snap hundreds of aerial pictures over a major crash or crime scene, something that use to take hours to do manually with the old-fashioned surveyor equipment.

“So not only is it faster but we’re getting more reliable data. We’re also getting all the original images and original video,” said Rob Dannenberg, with Cardno, a Portland-based company that is helping Renton police with the photogrammetry.

All the information gathered by the drone is turned into a 3-D image that will give police a more detailed re-creation of the scene.

Renton police is the first department in Washington  to use a drone for investigative purposes, and so far it's processed about a dozen crash or crimes scenes in the last two months.

“However, now that we’re doing it I can tell you there are several other agencies in the area that are looking at it,” added Karlewicz.

The entire project is costing the police department about $30,000 and police say it’s worth it.

“So just in overtime alone it’ll pay for itself with in a year or two,” said Karlewicz.

Eight members of the patrol services division are trained on the new equipment.

The police department will only use the drone for major crashes or crime scenes, but it is looking at using it during standoffs or tactical responses.

The technology is becoming more popular and is already being used in places like Arizona.