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Hamilton to consider law against drone voyeurism, other flying acts

Posted at 7:02 AM, Sep 07, 2021

HAMILTON, Ohio — Hamilton City Council will consider legislation against using drones to commit voyeurism after a resident this summer complained someone in his neighborhood had been harassing others with a small unmanned flying machine that can be used to record images.

City Law Director Letitia Block researched laws elsewhere in Ohio and found ordinances in Youngstown, Cleveland, Cleveland Heights and elsewhere, including the Sandusky County Park District, and put forward an ordinance for Hamilton’s council to consider. Legislation in the Ohio House also has been proposed.

A longtime city resident urged council to approve legislation, saying a man was using a drone to peer into windows, flying over children playing in yards and chase a young woman down the street.

The man said he was joined by his wife in making videos that showed how close the drone came to them, and said he found there was nothing the police could do to help him because there were no laws on the books.

“I’ve heard this from at least five other people, I would say, in the last two to three years that this is an issue,” said City Manager Joshua Smith, who wanted to quickly implement a city law. Among the proposed law’s aims is to make it illegal to use unmanned vehicles “to invade the privacy of another’s home, office, enclosed space or the private space of another.”

Flying drones above other properties, such as homes, would be banned without the owner’s consent, and their use to perform surveillance would be prohibited, as would flying over crime scenes or places where emergency workers are in action.

It also would make it unlawful to use such machines ”in a manner that recklessly endangers persons, wildlife, or property or in a manner that harasses, disturbs, intimidates, annoys or threatens persons.”

The proposed law also would ban people from flying drones over public parks, schools, municipal buildings, or any other property owned or used by the City of Hamilton School District, Hamilton Parks Conservancy or the City of Hamilton. TVHamilton cameras would have an exception.

“I know your situation is awful, but we will definitely look into it,” Mayor Pat Moeller said before the proposed legislation was created. “I do believe we’ll be able to come up with something.”

This story was originally published by WCPO news partner, the Journal-News.