Police departments using radar to “see” inside homes

22News found out why privacy advocates are so concerned about your rights

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CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – Police agencies across the country are using new radar technology to help them find people inside homes. The Range-R is a handheld system made by L3 Communications, which specializes in military and homeland security equipment.

The Range-R works like a motion detector through walls, telling police how far away someone is who’s moving around or even standing still just breathing inside a home. The idea is similar to the infrared cameras used by state police to track Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was hiding in a boat in a Watertown backyard following the Boston marathon bombings.

“It helped. It saved him and it saved officers lives, and it could save innocent people’s lives,” said Chicopee Police Officer Mike Wilk.

Wilk told 22News it doesn’t mean police officers are driving through neighborhoods looking to see who’s home. The tool has a specific purpose in specific situations.

“It’s not only used for a warrant. It could be used if there’s a hostage situation. You don’t want to go into a house if there are kids or innocent people in the house. You want to make sure you can see where you’re going and what room someone might be in,” Wilk added.

Many fire departments already use this kind of technology to locate people in burning rooms, when they only have minutes to make rescues. But privacy advocates are concerned. Attorney Justin Dion recognizes it saves lives; But he says it also creates a slippery slope.

“Technology is a double edged sword. It can do wonderful things but it’s got to be in the right hands. I think the police and government as a whole would use it for good purposes, but you always have those outliers who may be able to misuse it,” Dion said.

Dion said police departments are responsible to uphold the Fourth Amendment; getting a warrant from a judge who’s ruled probable cause exists. Jennifer Barton with L3 Communications wouldn’t say whether any Range-R systems are used by police departments in Massachusetts.

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