Drone sight­ings at state pris­ons spur Mis­souri bill

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - INTERNATIONAL -

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Mis­souri law­mak­ers are ex­pected to study leg­is­la­tion to re­strict the use of drones near state pris­ons af­ter re­cent sight­ings sparked con­cern among cor­rec­tions of­fi­cials that weapons or drugs were be­ing dropped in­side the grounds.

Repub­li­can Rep. Mike Hen­der­son in­tro­duced a bill that would make it a mis­de­meanor for any­one to know­ingly fly a drone within 300 ver­ti­cal feet and near the furthest perime­ter of pris­ons, the St. Joseph News-Press re­ported. The leg­is­la­tion would also add felony charges for at­tempt­ing to drop con­tra­band into state prison grounds.

The Mis­souri Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tions has re­ported 11 drone sight­ings near state pris­ons since 2016, but there have been no con­firmed cases of dropped con­tra­band, ac­cord­ing to agency spokesman Karen Po­j­mann.

“We haven’t made any di­rect or con­firmed con­nec­tions be­tween un­manned air­craft and con­tra­band, but it’s cer­tainly pos­si­ble that con­tra­band has been brought in by un­manned air­craft that weren’t spot­ted,” Po­j­mann said. “Drugs have been found in­side balls used for ath­letic ac­tiv­ity, for ex­am­ple, or have ap­peared on the ground with no clear point of ori­gin.”

Hen­der­son said the pro­posed leg­is­la­tion in­cludes ex­emp­tions so law en­force­ment of­fi­cials can fly drones over the fa­cil­i­ties, should there be a riot or other sit­u­a­tions.

Leg­is­la­tors will con­sider the bill in the com­ing weeks. If passed, Mis­souri would be among about a dozen states to reg­u­late drones near state pris­ons, mir­ror­ing fed­eral laws passed last year by the Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

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