Chief: Drones good for Fairfax, not for D.C.

Paul D. Shinkman,
Mark Segraves,

WASHINGTON – Drones in the skies over Northern Virginia makes sense, though they likely won’t be monitoring the District in the near future, says the D.C. chief of police, also a homeland security expert.

Chief Cathy Lanier, who founded the department’s first Homeland Security/Counter-Terrorism Branch, has been following the use of drones since they were first implemented over American soil in Arizona to help monitor the U.S.-Mexican border.

“There are a lot of different uses for it,” Lanier told WTOP while speaking on “Ask the Chief.” She doesn’t have any plans to purchase drones for D.C. use at this time, saying they wouldn’t be useful.

“I think it’s entirely different for a sprawling county like Fairfax,” she says.

In April, the Fairfax County chief of police said drones would “certainly” come to the skies over the Beltway.

“Drones will certainly have a purpose and a reason to be in this region in the next, coming years,” Fairfax County Police Chief David Rohrer told WTOP. “Just as a standpoint as an alternative for spotting traffic and sending information back to our VDOT Smart Traffic centers, and being able to observe backups.”

Learn more about drones over Virginia, and concerns over privacy protections by following this link.

Lanier says the use of drones wouldn’t assist her officers combat D.C. crimes.

Violent crimes are up 14 percent since last year, she says.

She has also noticed a rise in “snatch” crimes, recommending pedestrians don’t text while walking. Her initiative to work with cell phone companies to “brick” stolen phones so they cannot be resold won’t take effect until October.

A recent proposal to extend the hours during which bars can serve alcohol won’t cause additional crimes or disturbance, she said.

“I really don’t see it as a huge problem,” she says. “If there is a problem, it will be at the same places where we have problems now.”

Learn more about what Lanier thinks of a raise for police officers, and the “tabloidy” story she criticizes as a “personal attack” in our live blog:

10:57 a.m., speaking about a rise in violent crime:

It has increased 14 percent.

We still are up in robberies. Assault with Deadly Weapon is up slightly.

Robberies are what causes this.

There’s always a curfew this summer.

10:56 a.m., speaking about her residence:

The paperwork for my refinance listed my Maryland property as not my residence. In 2007 before I bought my home, that was my primary residence.

10:54 a.m., speaking about the case of a man who found his stolen bike through Craigslist:

He hopped in a cab and asked police to send undercover officers.

By that time, he was already arriving at the destination. We didn’t refuse to support him, we wanted him to give us time to react so we could make sure nobody got hurt.

He did steal is bike back. If you have one, please hang on to the serial number, because we recover a lot of those.

If you lock your bike, take the seat off. It helps alert our officers that a bike is stolen.

10:52 a.m., speaking about forcing marchers to first get a permit:

I think it makes good sense, and helps organize any conflicts.

It doesn’t put a blanket on free speech. It allows the demonstrators to reserve an area. Even if we don’t meet the timeline, we still find a way to accommodate them.

We’re still dealing with Occupy protesters several times a week.

10:48 a.m., speaking about extending bars’ serving hours for alcohol:

“I really don’t see it as a huge problem. If there is a problem, it will be at the same places where we have problems now.”

It would only be an overtime issue if we have to make arrests.

10:46 a.m., speaking about Chef Geoff’s speed camera:

This is a victory for road construction. But if it makes Chef Geoff feel good, we can bring it back.

Right now, I think we have sufficient numbers to do what we want to do.

10:44 a.m., speaking about Cole Hamels purposefully beaning Nats rookie Bryce Harper:

There are no criminal charges at the time.

10:43 a.m., speaking about crime related to home sports games:

I can’t say statistically “yes,” but I’ve experienced it’s very quiet when there’s a good game on.

10:41 a.m., speaking about whether the Petworth assaults related to hate crimes:

All of the crimes we’ve confirmed are isolated to the assaults.

We’re down 16 percent on hate crimes. We’ve been doing a pretty good job on closing the cases.

10:36 a.m., speaking about “bricking” stolen phones so they can’t be resold:

It isn’t kicking in until October.

Please don’t walk down the road texting. Every single day I read about at least one phone “snatch” crime in my morning crime report.

The cell companies will have a registry of a unique identifier for each phone, which will then be banned from service if reported stolen.

10:34 a.m., speaking about the use of drones:

There is a real difference in the use of different types of technology, based on the technology you’re using.

I think it’s entirely different for a sprawling county like Fairfax than a city like D.C.

I don’t have any plan to purchase any at this time, I don’t know they’d be useful.

I’ve been following it since Arizona first came out with it. There are a lot of different uses for it.

10:32 a.m., speaking about pedestrian violations:

It’s still very high. We had about 400 last year, and all of the categories, such as walking against red lights, are up.

It’s hard to say whether numbers are up because it’s getting worse or we’re enforcing more.

10:23 a.m., speaking about Washington Times allegations that Lanier’s compensation is linked to her boyfriend, a police sergeant:

I think it’s a really cheap shot at my personal life. I realize the media is going to try to get into a lot of personal issues. That article was “tabloidy” and motivated by someone who wants to attack me personally.

All of the benefits the department gets are codified, and can’t be manipulated.

There are 23 sergeants in Special Operations Division. The sergeant they cite ranks about 9th in officers who received overtime. This particular sergeant is “nowhere near the top earners” for overtime in SOD.

I own a home in Maryland, which I had to refinance because it isn’t my primary residence. I live in D.C.

10:22 a.m., speaking about negotiating the police officers’ contract:

We started back in December. The process has been going smoothly so far. Negotiations should happen at the table, not in the courtroom. “The only people benefiting from this are the union attorneys.”

10:15 a.m., speaking about lawsuit from police union:

It’s absurd. It looks like the union is trying to stall the negotiation process. Officers deserve a raise.

The union walked away from negotiations.

The negotiating team meets weekly for several months. “Negotiations have been going well.” That’s why the lawsuit caught everyone off guard.

It’s “just false” that my bargaining authority expired with my old contract.

10:11 a.m., speaking about her new $1.25 million contract:

It’s pretty much the same as the last one. Now there’s no raise or bonuses.

I get “longevity” increases, based on a statute to retain experienced officers. I get 5 percent in 2015 only for 15 months until the contract expires.

There’s no “sweetheart,” “pot of gold” benefits at the end of the contract.

“I think it’s a good contract. I really want to get back to focusing on doing my job.”

10:04 a.m., speaking about the arrest of a man charged with murdering a Denver tourist:

Michael Davis was originally charged with assault on three other cases in the Petworth area, and late last evening charges were brought on the 66-year-old man who was killed. We believe that was the first attack.

“We really don’t know what the motive was.” A lot of the case now is contingent upon forensic evidence.

There were several other victims with similar injuries. “Linking all of those things is going to be largely forensics.”

He’s been charged with the original three assaults, and now the homicide.

The assaults have stopped in that neighborhood.

We caught this suspect by flooding the area with undercover officers. The assaults had all happened so fast.

“I worked in that neighborhood most of my career. Clearly if someone was doing assaults in that area, he was living nearby.”

“It was terrifying.”

I reacted so quickly because it reminded me of cases we’ve had before, like the sniper. “It terrifies people. They’re afraid to leave their homes.”

Follow Paul D. Shinkman and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up