AP NEWS

Coachella using army of drones, police to boost security in wake of Las Vegas massacre

April 13, 2018 GMT

LOS ANGELES — A small fleet of drones began to buzz overhead Thursday monitoring traffic and perimeters for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

With 125,000 people expected daily and an increased camping area and footprint, the festival dwarfs its host city, Indio.

In the wake of the killing of 58 at a Las Vegas music festival, Indio police and 14 other local and federal agencies will have more eyes than ever on the crowd thanks to the undermanned aerial surveillance.

“Drones will be flying over watching the perimeters. It takes us a few minutes to get an officer to a perimeter breach but a drone takes 45 seconds,” said Indio Police Sgt. Dan Marshall. “The drones will also allow us to monitor traffic better than before.

Marshall said an outside company experienced in flying drones is providing the eyes in the sky for the first time and is cheaper and easier to call in than a police chopper.

In the desert hamlet, the horror of the Las Vegas attack still remains as it came on the hills of concert attacks by terrorists in Manchester, England, and Paris.

“Public safety is the absolute number one priority every year regardless of national and international events,” Marshall said. “We have 15 years of making improvements. We make changes every year.”

The festival’s growth in capacity last year meant the number of officers patrolling the two-day event actually increased considerably last year. “We get officers from all across the Coachella Valley and Banning and Beaumont.”

Marshall said Indio has just over 90,000 people on a normal day and festival attendance over two days is 250,000.

He said with the increased size of the Sahara tent venue and an enlarged camping area, officers will have more real estate to keep a watchful eye over.

The increased camp means officers will be deployed more on a 24/7 basis, he said.