Facts about law enforcement helicopters
February 28, 2012
Law enforcement helicopters have been in use in law enforcement since the late 1940s. They’re used to control and monitor traffic, chase down fleeing suspects, locate stolen vehicles, conduct air searches, perform surveillance activities, and monitor activity in high crime areas. They’re also used to transport specialty law enforcement forces such as SWAT units to the scenes of critical emergencies.
Law enforcement helicopters are equipped with specialty equipment such as searchlights, surveillance cameras, radar, night vision equipment, infrared devices, radios, loudspeakers, tear gas dispensers, flashing light beacons, first aid equipment and law enforcement rescue equipment such as winches and winch cables.
Most law enforcement helicopters are purchased from aircraft manufacturers, but sometimes they’re obtained from military surplus suppliers. An example of a military helicopter used in law enforcement work is the Bell UH-1 Huey. Commonly used law enforcement helicopters are the Bell 206, Bell 407 and the Eurocopter EC130 and EC120.
Law enforcement helicopters can fly at speeds of 120 to 160 miles per hour.
While they’re expensive to purchase and operate, the effectiveness of law enforcement helicopters supports using them. One study showed that in Compton, California, criminal activity was reduced 9% over a period of three months by using one helicopter just five hours per day.
Law enforcement helicopters for patrol use were first employed in Lakewood, California where they initiated the Sky Knight program. Flying one patrol helicopter ten hours a day decreased criminal activities 8.8% in the first year alone. Since then, many cities have modeled their helicopter programs on the Sky Knight program.
Today law enforcement helicopters are a frequently used tool in cities and suburbs for conducting law enforcement and maintaining public safety.