Police Drones Used for Raids on Illegal Gambling Dens in China
Chinese police used drones to investigate and bust an illegal gambling ring in the central Hubei Province. The resulting police raid collected 12 gang members, 49 alleged gamblers, and 50,000 yuan (US$7,836) in the gaming den’s cash. The drone use is part of a growing trend in Chinese law enforcement, where big city police have fleets of spy drones.
The illegal gambling operation was based in the cities of Wuhan and Xiantoa, both inside Hubei Province. Wuhan Public Security Bureau conducted the raid on May 16, though investigators only released details of their action on Monday.
The use of police drones is notable, because the drone allowed surveillance of gaming operators who otherwise would have been difficult to track. While old-fashioned surveillance works best in some situations, drones in this case allowed investigators to plan a raid with 3D intel on the target site.
China is the world leader in the use of drones. About 3 million drones exist worldwide as of March 2018. About 75% of those drones were manufactured in China.
Drones Used to Plan Wuhan Raid
On May 15, police investigators used drones to spy on a suspected gambling den that the organized crime gang was suspected of operating. Because the gang was thought to often change its gambling locations, the use of drones allowed for efficient surveillance of the entire area where suspicious activity occurred. Any movement to and from the alleged gaming den could be tracked and recorded.
Using the drones, police were able to acquire 3D views of the gaming site. This helped the police plan their raid on the site in Wuhan. When the raid happened, police collected several gambling machines and two point-of-sale or POS machines (used to swipe credit cards).
Police Drones Fight Terrorism
Police drones have been in used by Chinese authorities for several years. The number of drones used across China has grown from 300 in 2015 to 1,000 by 2016, but now numbers several thousand. Police units which use them fight drug cartels, terrorist cells, and even official corruption. In 2016 in the western region of Kashgar, police used UAV AT-100 hobby drones, manufactured by Shenzhen Art-Tech R/C, to track down a terrorist network.
Lin Weidong, President of Art-Tech, said his company’s devices make police work more efficient. The drone executive said, “Police UAVs play an irreplaceable role in emergencies and daily security affairs….Drones can greatly improve the speed of police response to situations and enhance their work efficiency. This means, there will be a huge market potential in the sector.”
Fly over Mountains, Forests, Orchards
Lin Daolin, who works at the Police Aviation Administration Office for the Ministry of Public Security, said that police drones are used every day to perform advanced surveillance. Drones are particularly useful flying in mountainous and forested areas, where officers normally would have a hard time maintaining visual contact with a suspect.
The MPS officer said, “At the moment, police UAVs can be used only for surveillance and detection. In criminal cases which require police UAVs to work in small spaces with strong signal interference, the device is incapable of working effectively with its current technology.”
Most of the devices used are small-to-medium sized quadcopters, which use two pairs of identical fixed-pitched propellers. Units in cities like Wuhan, Beijing, Shandong, Shaanx, and Jiangsu maintain entire fleets of drones.
Drones vs. Wild Elephants
In Menghai county, Yunnan province in 2017, police used drones to protect local residents from a wild elephant which had been attacking passers-by. In all 18 wild elephants were migrating through the area at the time. All 18 (16 in a pack together) were monitored 24 hours a day, but one in particular had been hit a bus with its head and pushed a smaller car off the road.
Police monitored the elephants and alerted local villages, if the elephants appeared to be approaching residential areas. Using the method, no one was harmed by the elephants.
US Police and Drone Use
With police actions against gambling rings, terrorists, drug traders, and even wild elephants, news stories present a stark contract with US law enforcement’s use of drones. American police use drone for many of the same tasks, but the most famous story involving drones and US police involved an investigation disrupted by the use of drones.
As an FBI hostage rescue team tried to investigate criminals in an undisclosed US city, Gizmodo and other US media sites reported that the criminals used drone to disrupt FBI surveillance. Joe Mazel of the FBI’s Operational Technology Law (OPL) Unit said at a 2017 AUVSI Xponential conference in Denver, Colorado that “high-speed, low passes at agents in the observation post” which disrupted surveillance attempts.
That was not the worst part. The criminals also uploaded video of the FBI officers on their YouTube feed, allowing criminals to avoid the FBI stakeout team. Mazel said, “They had people fly their own drones up and put the footage to YouTube so that the guys who had cellular access could go to the YouTube site and pull down the video.”
Chinese Police Drones on Illegal Gambling
The Chinese police raid aided by drones is a watershed moment in illegal gambling history. It appears to be the first time an illegal gambling ring was busted with the use of drones, but it will not be the last. As the various police actions above describe, drone use is a growing police resource with several layers of potential use. But investigators may have to deal with illegal gaming operators using the same tactics to avoid a gaming raid.