HARFORD COUNTY, Md. (WJZ) — The Harford County Sheriff’s Office has added drones to their fleet and after a little over a month of operation, they’ve already been used to bring missing people home safely and reunite lost children with their parents.

Four small, flying, crime-fighting, people-rescuing, devices have launched in Harford County — Forty-Four thousand dollars worth of gear that didn’t cost taxpayers anything.

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“This is something we paid for with asset forfeiture meaning the drug dealers paid for the tools that we will then use against them and for other law enforcement operations in the county,” said Sheriff Jeff Gahler.

A month and a half ago, the agency purchased 4 small unmanned aerial systems or drones. In just a short time, they have already reunited a 5-year-old child with his mother and helped locate a young man with autism in distress. Everything was done safely, quickly and efficiently.

“But now on the outside, the tactical commander can see exactly what the team is seeing and that way they can work together to figure out the best option for the best move in the operation,” said Sgt. Warren Brooks.

The command center equipment helps keep all officers on the same page.

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“We wanted to make sure that we had the best tools possible to serve the needs of the citizens of Harford County,” said Sgt. Brooks.

A unit has been created to man the drones and send them into the sky in barricade situations, after natural disasters, if someone is missing, or at a crime scene. The Sheriff’s Office wants to remind residents that it is not a spy tool.

“What it’s not and what it sadly sold as in other places around the country is big brother flying around looking over what people are doing with their minding their own business and that is not what this program is set up to do,” said Sheriff Gahler.

The drones can go as far as the officer operating them can see and as high as 400 feet. They cannot always fly in the rain and are restricted from certain air spaces, but overall they’re aiding the department in making Harford County safer.

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The agency is aware they might have to upgrade as new technologies emerge but said they are excited that these new devices are already paying off.

Rachael Cardin