Bensalem police credit drone technology for retail theft clearance rate

The drones have been able to arrive on the scene within minutes as the officer tracks the suspect.

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Wednesday, May 8, 2024
How Bensalem police are using drones to capture shoplifters
Bensalem Police Department credits drone technology for retail theft clearance rate | How it works

BENSALEM TWP., Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- The Bensalem Police Department has its eyes in the sky these days.

The department is now using drones to search for suspects wanted for retail theft.

Investigators say it's giving them a much-needed leg up when it comes to making arrests.

Bensalem police gave Action News exclusive access to drone footage of shoplifting arrests made over the past few months. And it was the drone itself, that made those arrests possible.

It's all part of the recently created Bensalem Secure Task Force.

Detective Glenn Vandegrift says at the heart of it is a small fleet of drones that are quickly launched after a local retail theft is reported.

The drones have been able to arrive on the scene consistently within two minutes as the operator pans the camera to find someone matching the description of the suspect.

In one case, information about the theft of a bicycle, along with the suspect's location, was passed along to the responding officer who made the arrest less than a mile away from the shop that was targeted.

"Our clearance rate for retail thefts is 62%. That is significantly higher than the national average," said Vandegrift.

And the township had good reason to develop this program. Last year, the department received nearly 900 reports of retail theft.

Compare that to 2019 when they only received 484 such reports.

Detective Vandegrift is now hopeful that the success of the task force will inspire other departments to install similar programs to help find thieves who come in from out of town, or even from out of state.

He also wants this effort to send a message loud and clear: "It doesn't matter if it's $20 or $200, we're coming at you just as hard."

Bensalem Secure is a collaboration between Bensalem police, local officials, and the Bucks County District Attorney's office, and their efforts go far beyond drones and shoplifting.