Woman calls police to report drone 'spying' outside Seattle apartment

by: Joanna Small Updated:

SEATTLE - A woman called police to report a Peeping Tom, but not the traditional kind.  She says a drone was looking into her downtown Seattle apartment window at Stewart Street and Terry Avenue, and the people operating it had camera equipment.

 Seattle police say there's only one way it could constitute a crime, and it's hard to prove.

 "Had you heard there was a drone flying around this area?” KIRO 7 asked one woman who lives on the eighth floor of an apartment building near that intersection.

“I had not, no,” Candace Hackett said. “Well, that’s interesting. Big Brother much? (That’s) kind of my gut instinct."

Others confirmed there’s a slight “creepy” factor.

"It's a little odd,” said Sameer Gopalani, who lives in the same complex as Hackett.  “I wonder why it would be flying around and to what purpose."

"The good person in me wants to believe it wasn't someone trying to watch me or another person in the building, but who knows?" said Hackett.

Legally, it doesn't matter.  KIRO 7 asked the Federal Aviation Administration, and  just Monday, it reaffirmed rules for unmanned model aircraft.  They only address air traffic safety, not privacy.

"People do have an expectation of privacy, and they should.  But if somebody is outside and they can get a picture of you through your window, that's just living in the city, sorry,” Detective Patrick Michaud with the Seattle Police Department explained.

Seattle police admit there's not much they can do about drone complaints -- with one exception.

 "If you feel threatened by it, or you get hit by it, feel free to tell a person, ‘Hey look, that's not cool,’ or you can call police and we can do the talking for you, if you wish,” Michaud concluded.

 That's what happened in this case, and police say they're investigating as best they can.  SPD actually tried to launch its own drone program, but the former mayor shut it down last year, citing privacy concerns.

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