Drone use for illegal building activity


Our county continues to see erosion of jobs and citizen migration. In an attempt to capture lost revenue from building permit avoidance, the thinking is to use drones to photograph all of Trumbull County’s buildings.

That requires spending additional tax dollars on new drones, maintenance, operators and legal fees. If all homes are photographed, then considerable man hours are needed to filter the photos and monitor for new construction. Crosschecks will be needed to see whether a permit was issued. If not, is a search warrant required to approach the home owner? At first glance, it is doubtful that drone costs will offset missing permit costs and add revenue to county’s coffers.

An alternative is to approach missing revenue from the back end of the process. It would be prudent to utilize tools already in place to avoid additional drone costs. The auditor’s office has an excellent tool for all to see what buildings or attachments are on a given property. When a property is put up for sale, it is open for public inspection. During inspection, any improvements not done with a proper permit can be easily validated by the leasing agent, potential buyer or other interested party, using the auditor’s website. If work was done without proper permits, it could then be paid prior to the sale closing. If the sale is done without paying the permit fee and potential penalties, the new owner may be responsible for them. One would think checks would be done prior to the sale. Essentially, the process becomes self-monitoring. The fees and penalty for performing work without proper permits should be enough to deter future permit avoidance. This will capture missing revenue with minimal added costs to taxpayers.

A suggestion is to offer an amnesty program prior to implementing the new process. One or two years may be in order. It should be done after consulting Trumbull County Building Inspection and Auditor’s offices as they will incur additional work. The permit process will need to be streamlined to ensure accuracy and timeliness.

The use of drones to photograph every home just to capture a few permit violators does not merit the investment and acts as a future deterrent for folks wanting to migrate to Trumbull County. Do we really want to be known as the “spy county” for future migration? Too many sacrifices have been made by patriots in the last 200 years to ensure privacy and civil liberties for all of us. Once the door is open for drones, it will never close, and capabilities only will improve. Respect your privacy because very few will.