ESSEX Police’s new operation to tackle rural crimes with drone surveillance has been blasted by Dengie residents.

Essex Police launched “Operation Buzzard” on Sunday to help the force take on crimes in rural areas of Essex.

The operation will make use of the force’s specialist teams, including the Police Drone Team, who will be using their latest flying mechanical drones to help monitor and survey rural areas.

The police believe with heightened drone surveillance will help track persistent rural criminals with the element of surprise.

Rural and Heritage Crime Officer Andy Long said: “Operation Buzzard gives us the opportunity to develop our response to rural crime with the assistance of new technologies such as the force drone which can help us gather evidence to crack down on offenders.

"We also need the support of local residents, farmers and rural businesses to act as our eyes and ears on the ground and report any suspicious activity.”

Residents of rural areas of the district have slammed the operation, stating it is a “cop-out” and funds could be better spent elsewhere.

Paul Webb, who works at The Computer Centre in Burnham, said: “I like the idea of using drones but it feels like a bit of a cop out, and I fail to see how it will make a difference.”

“Somebody is obviously going to be controlling it, surely that manpower is best used to actually have a Bobby on the beat? Just seems like a bit of a waste of time and money.

“I know the idea is more surveillance but I think what people want more is a visible police presence not some kids toy on steroids. If they were kitting them out with Reapers then I would fully understand.”

Vanessa Bell, of Station Road, Burnham, said: “It seems like Big Brother gone mad. There are potentially huge invasion of privacy issues, and I can imagine some people might think it highly entertaining to shoot them out of the sky.

“Unless they're equipped with remote control Tasers or similar, even if they spot crimes being committed they can't do anything about them. I can't say I'm impressed to be honest, it seems a lot more like surveillance than policing.”

Allison Gray, of Great Totham, who suffered a burglary earlier this year, said: “Drones would not have helped me when I was burgled, and they won’t help prevent one in the future. I dread to think how much this cost, it’s a pretty disgraceful operation to me.”

Burnham Mayor Ron Pratt added: “Residents want to see more of a physical police presence.

“Only time will tell whether this operation will be a good thing or a bad thing, but I still believe we as an area should have a police presence in the Dengie.”