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Thermal imaging drone which found wanted man and cannabis factory turns up the heat on criminals

PUBLISHED: 13:03 10 February 2018 | UPDATED: 13:51 10 February 2018

Norfolk Constabulary unveil their new police drone. Left to right, PCC Lorne Green, police drone pilot Sgt Danny Leach and deputy chief constable Nick Dean. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

Norfolk Constabulary unveil their new police drone. Left to right, PCC Lorne Green, police drone pilot Sgt Danny Leach and deputy chief constable Nick Dean. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

It has helped capture a wanted man and uncover a cannabis factory containing more than 700 plants and is one of two new crime-fighting eyes in the sky over Norfolk.

Norfolk Constabulary unveil their new police drone. Police drone pilot Sgt Danny Leach. Picture : ANTONY KELLYNorfolk Constabulary unveil their new police drone. Police drone pilot Sgt Danny Leach. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

Norfolk Police has doubled its drone coverage - from two to four of the hi-tech machines - following the success of a three-month pilot scheme launched 
last year.

One of the two new drones comes with thermal imaging equipment which is able to fly at night and which has already proved its worth in catching criminals in the county.

This week more than 700 plants were seized by police from an outbuilding at North Pickenham, near Swaffham after the thermal imaging drone, which cost about £8,000, was sent up to try and spot a heat source.

While at the end of last year wanted man Philip Johnson, who had breached the terms of his licence, was put back behind bars after he was caught on camera by the drone trying to flee from police.

Drone footage of wanted man Philip Johnson attempting to escape from police in Great Yarmouth, Picture: Great Yarmouth PoliceDrone footage of wanted man Philip Johnson attempting to escape from police in Great Yarmouth, Picture: Great Yarmouth Police

During the operation at Gapton Hall Road, Great Yarmouth, Johnson clambered from the window of one of the caravans on the site and crawled through the undergrowth.

But the thermal image drone detected his every move, with force drone operator Danny Leach alerting officers at 
the scene.

Norfolk’s police and crime commissioner Lorne Green, who has pledged to give officers 21st century tools to fight 21st century crime, said more drones have been brought in following a successful trial.

He said: “We started with two and we’ve doubled it to four.

Philip Johnson. Photo: Norfolk PolicePhilip Johnson. Photo: Norfolk Police

“I was advised by the lead pilot of the programme that thermal imaging would make a substantial difference so I made available funds to get a thermal imaging drone and one more.

“The thermal imaging one has clearly demonstrated its effectiveness. A lot of crime takes place under the cover of darkness. It’s more complicated to find missing people in the dark so the thermal imaging drone 
has a really important part to play.”

He added: “Not only does it bring good successes but it also makes the police force more visible because it releases police officers to spend more time doing their jobs.”

The drones pilot has been praised by inspectors from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS).

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