Infrared Spy Plane Leads To Police Officer's House Getting Raided Over Poor Insulation

from the oops dept

Last year, we wrote about an odd use of infrared camera technology. Apparently, a city in the UK, Haringey, was sending out spy planes with infrared cameras to map out heat loss from every home. It then put the whole map online, so that everyone could see how much heat their homes were leaking. While perhaps a little creepy, it was kind of a neat use of the technology. What we didn’t realize was that there’s a secondary use of such technology as well. Apparently infrared technology from spy planes or helicopters is also used to detect potential marijuana growers. It seems the intersection of these two uses has caused a bit of a problem in one case.

Boing Boing alerts us to the news that a woman who actually worked for the police department had her own home targeted in a drug raid (by officers who knew her) thanks to infrared imaging from a flyover that suggested she might be growing pot. Instead, it turned out she just had bad insulation. Still, the police admitted that they were going to raid the house no matter what, and if the woman hadn’t been home, they would have broken in. You would think that, perhaps, a little more evidence would be needed. In the meantime, are police now going to scan the Haringey map above for more houses to raid?

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Comments on “Infrared Spy Plane Leads To Police Officer's House Getting Raided Over Poor Insulation”

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Tony (profile) says:

This is a great example.

I believe there was another post in which all the Commenters were debating the merits of the phrase ‘if you aren’t doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to fear,’ regarding lack of privacy, government snooping, etc.

This is a perfect example. It seems as though she’s got nothing to fear, but the police seemed to (incorrectly) think so. It appears that she didn’t get in trouble but I really hope she was more pissed off about this than “honest mistake, mate.” Not only was she harassed by the police, but she worked with and knew them.

Also, this is a great example of some lying authorities. “We are going to, get this, scan your house FOR FREE to see where heat may be leaking. Also, we are going to check for other things (for free, too!) but you don’t need to worry about that unless we raid you. For free!”

Random User says:

Re: This is a great example.

Your last paragraph should read……

…”We are going to, get this (With your tax money), spend your tax money to scan your house WITHOUT YOUR PERMISSION to see where heat may be leaking. Also, we are going to check for other things (While spending your tax money) but you don’t need to worry about that unless we raid you. Again, paying for it with your tax dollars.”

It’s not free. It’s paid for with every citizens’ tax dollars.

kilroy says:

Legit use of the data from my perspective ...

If you choose to run a grow-op you are putting your neighbours at risk. The crop you are producing is intended to be sold, which is against the law. I doubt very much that people involved in such enterprises intend to declare the income & pay taxes … Hmmmm.

It isn’t a tough call; the odd case where someone is pissing away energy, whether they know it or not is irrelevant. We need to put a stop to the problem & this is one tool in the war against it. It does not matter that she knew the officers … Toronto, Canada recently had a large Grow-op bust and some of the people arrested were police.

Tim Leary says:

Re: Legit use of the data from my perspective ...

What are you putting your neighbors at risk from, and how do you know the crop was intended to be sold? Some folks actually consume the product themselves, you know. Use it yourself, you own no taxes.

What’s better, people buy crops grown in their own country, improving the economy, or they buy them from another country, creating a trade imbalance.

The problem is the police violating privacy laws, not people growing things in their attic. The problem is tools like you. Maybe the police should come and ransack your home, because with an attitude like yours, you’ve GOT to be smoking something.

Thatoneguy says:

Re: Response to post 5 and 6

Abosutely correct. The Supreme Court rules in Kyllo v. United States that Police cannot use thermal imaging on random houses to gather probable cause for a warrant.

However, if they had probable cause prior to that, they could get a warrant to use thermal imagining and use that as evidence, I suppose. But then again, they could just raid the place, so I don’t know why they would bother with the imaging (other than to know where to look maybe).

smaug7 says:

Re: Re: Re: Response to post 5 and 6

True about your UK point; I don’t know their laws. What scenario that scares me is if they use the thermal imaging first to figure out that you may or may not be growing plants and then wait for a probable cause. An example of that being a lot of people coming in and out of your house, common MJ growing equipment – lamps, dirt, etc…I dont know what else you need.

Overcast says:

Yeah, it’s old news that they do that. So what if they bust in and don’t find a thing? Can they be sued?

I mean, who’s to say I’m not using heat lamps for an iguana or other tropical plants?

When you hear a low flying copter over your house at 10:30/11:00 or later at night – it’s usually some local P.D. snooping around for pot growers. It’s not like there are rapists, murderers, child molesters, and the like to catch. They gotta bust down those pot smokers to protect society!!!


Silver says:

I’ve seen plenty of people drink and then want to fight or drive and crash. I know 0 fights and 1 accident from weed, the guy fell asleep after smoking after a 14+ hour shift. He went off the road and tore up a little of the bottom front end of his car. This whole fight against weed thing is dumb it costs billions of dollars. I’ve done it, although now I maybe do it once a year, if that. It does ruin a persons motivation and makes a person want to eat, neither is good for me. That being said though, I watched a cop show the other day, the guy was a “Suspected Marijuana Dealer” They tried to drive over his fence (they failed that was funny) they kicked in the door, threw in flashbang grenades (even though they knew kids would probably be in there) and ran it with full swat gear. They found about a 1/4 ounce. If thats the most important thing the cops have to go after we have too many cops.

SteveD says:

Get your facts straight

“Also, this is a great example of some lying authorities. “We are going to, get this, scan your house FOR FREE to see where heat may be leaking. Also, we are going to check for other things (for free, too!) but you don’t need to worry about that unless we raid you. For free!””

Get your facts straight before you rant. How is this different to google uploading a picture of your roof onto google maps?

How is it different to a policeman walking a beat keeping an eye out for anything suspicous?

It remains a VERY dubious use of the technology due to the physics involved, but theres nothing in it that violates privacy laws. Police have been using thermal cameras on helicopters for ages.

Anonymous Coward says:

@ silver:

Lots of folks speculate that the reason the growing/selling/smoking of pot is illegal, while the consumption of alcohol isn’t, is for the simple fact that it’s too easy to grow. It’s much easier to grow marijuana than it is to brew beer and I have no idea how liquor is created but I’d assume, still tougher than growing a marijuana plant. So, some people take this idea and run with it, pulling out the ‘taxes’ argument. If marijuana were legalized, it would be tough for the government to tax. You would have all sorts of people growing their own, and giving no money to the government via taxes.

I think about it and realize it’s not hard to hide the fact that you’re smoking marijuana. But it’s also not hard to hide the fact that you’re an alcoholic. Neither are healthy. Anyone have ideas as to why alcohol (I would say cigarettes but they don’t impair judgment quite as much) is legal while marijuana isn’t?

Just a thought.

Nat says:

Infra red spy plane

Oh Great! I have vivariums all over the house which house three lizards, so if my house is scanned and they see the heat from the vivs we will be targeted, they could break into my house when I’m at work and scare the living daylights out of my pets and all in the name so called proactive policing.

Surely there are better things to waste tax payers money on?

Silver says:

This is how I feel about any substance or activity. If you are A. capable of making a decision for yourself which means you have to be metally competent and an adult and B. You are not hurting anyone else or putting someone else at risk, then do whatever it is you want. We could make alcohol illegal too and it may solve a lot of problems at first glance. The truth is people are going to do what they want and if they have to get around a law there going to. Laws are there to protect people from others who may take adavantage of them, no one can protect someone from themselves. I personally hardly ever drink alcohol or smoke weed anymore. I have 2 beers left from a 6 pack I bought almost 2 weeks ago and that I gave 2 away. Thats my alcohol consumption. Weed I did a little on the 4th of july before that I don’t even remember, I think it was the 4th before that. This is a personal decision based on Me doing a job where I need to think all day and schooling on the side. I need all the ambition and mental capacity I can get. But who am I to decide this for someone else? They aren’t hurting me doing what they want in there homes. Now if they want to drive around all drunk and high, now they are putting me at risk and thats an issue. Alcohol is legal because it’s a much larger corporate business then selling weed and money talks. I am personally tired of someone believing something and then pushing it on others. This is why religious wars, substance bans, heck even military sex laws come to be. I knew a guy in the military who got a BJ from his wife that they taped, they had a messy divorce and she showed the tape to his CO, he is currently in prison for that. People need to learn “If it’s not your life, and it’s not hurting your life, then it’s not your business and you need to STFU.”

GHynson (profile) says:

Sheriff Raided My House.

Round Rock, TX. Sheriff raided my house a few years ago because my power bill was in the avg of $450-500 a month. Compared to everyone else’s around $150.
Turn out I was running a cluster of 20 computers for development work.
But then they tried to intimidate me saying I was probably a mass spammer or into hacking.
What a bunch of goons.

Grandma Mildred Supports the economy until 92 says:

Bake Sales, Hobbies, Arts and Crafts

Maybe the answer is encouraging those about to retire take up a hobby. Imagine if 10 million retirees started having bake-sales or making ceramics in 2,000-degree electric kilns that run 8 hours, 4 times a week. The infrared spy plane would be obsolete.

Retirees could sell their arts, crafts and baked goods at the fair or on eBay, The extra taxes collected could go to pay down the national debt.

Winner: Nation’s Grandchildren (who have to burden less debt), and the 4th Amendment by proxy (via a few ACLU lawsuits).

Damien says:

It remains a VERY dubious use of the technology due to the physics involved, but theres nothing in it that violates privacy laws. Police have been using thermal cameras on helicopters for ages.

They’ve also been beating people with night-sticks “for ages”, but that doesn’t it any better either.

Apparently you’ve either A) never been, or know any who has been, wrongly put in the cops investigative crosshairs or B) a tool. Thermal cameras see into your house. You think that doesn’t violate privacy? That it’s comparable to an overhead view of your roof? Right…

Anonymous Coward says:

#31 made me laugh!

Any one running a smart grow operation will figure out a way to pay taxes, just like super-hookers (sorry, sex workers) do.

As far as someone growing their own and not paying taxes on it. Why would they? Do you pay the government taxes for your vegetable or flower garden? However it isn’t too easy to grow top quality mary-jane and it also takes a decent amount of time, money and space. People are allowed to brew their own beer and yet….most people still go out and buy it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Another use

We could use these flyovers to find out who has bad insulation on their homes, or who uses their AC too much, and force them to fix the problem.

For their own good, of course. And maybe we can get grocery stores to start issuing cards so that people’s food purchases can be tracked and those with unhealthy diets can be forced to change (for their own good). And then maybe we can make doctors start using electronic health records so that we can identify people with unhealthy lifestyles and force them to change (for their own good). Of course, we would have to start small, like maybe by forcing people to wear seat belts in cars (for their own good).

Hey, just kidding. None of that would ever actually happen.

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