It’s funny how new technology continues to disrupt old business practices. Now, even the world’s oldest profession has a new high-tech problem – flying drones with video cameras.
Private investigator and anti-prostitution activist, Brian Bates, is using drones to spy on, record and catch prostitutes and the people who hire them.
Brian Bates operates a website called JohnTV, where he posts videos of prostitutes and their johns and chronicles the destructive nature of street prostitution on neighborhoods and local communities.
In Oklahoma last March, Bates used his drone surveillance system to record a prostitute with her john through a car window.
Bate’s initially followed the john’s car and recorded it with a handheld video recorder. However, after seeing the prostitute’s pimp in the area, he decided to use his drone for his own personal safety and to get a better recording of the illegal activity.
The video follows the alleged john and his alleged prostitute in their car. The car goes to a nearby tire yard, where the john and the prostitute are filmed in the front seat of a white truck engaged in what appears to be a lewd and compromising situation. After the couple spot the drone hovering over the front windshield, they stop their activity and drive away.
The video recording was handed over to police. Now the man, Douglas Blansett, and woman, Amanda Zolicoffer, face misdemeanor criminal charges for engaging in acts of lewdness.
According to Bates, Amanda Zolicoffer is a “known prostitute” who works in the area where Blansett picked her up.
Bates said the neighborhood, located in south Oklahoma City, is an impoverished area that is full of prostitution. He said that street prostitution in the area has dropped considerably ever since he started patrolling the area with his surveillance camera and drone.
Bates told reporters that the camera-equipped drone allowed him to get recorded evidence of the event that he wouldn’t have been able to get with traditional surveillance techniques. He said that approaching the john’s car on foot with a handheld camera would have been too noticeable and dangerous.
Although the use of drones by police and the general public is a relatively new area of the law, the Constitution puts more legal restrictions on the use of video surveillance drones by police than it does civilians who use the drones to collect video evidence for law enforcement purposes.
When a public citizen uses a drone to record an event and then provides the video evidence to police, this does not violate search and seizure laws or other Constitutional restrictions, since the United States Constitution does not restrict the actions of private citizens.
Blansett and Zolicoffer have both pleaded not guilty to the charges, but, based on the video evidence, they probably face an uphill legal fight.