Budget concerns and fewer outdoor marijuana growing operations have kept the Indiana State Police’s drug aircraft largely on the ground this year, the Marion, Ind., Chronicle-Tribune says. State police Cpl. Mike Crabtree said budget cutbacks and high maintenance costs have been a big problem. The eradication program is funded by the state and a federal grant.
Statewide, four of 12 pilot positions haven’t been filled and two fewer helicopters are in the air. That leaves six helicopters and four airplanes. In 2001, state police logged 1,637 flight hours in the search for illegal marijuana cultivations. In 2002, that number was down to 1,008, and it will decrease this year.
The state has called on the U.S. Air Force’s Civil Air Patrol to help fill the gap. Police also have shifted some of their attention from outside cultivations to indoor ones, which use special equipment and lights to grow marijuana.
Despite the decreased air miles, marijuana flights have been finding roughly the same amount of drugs. “Recently, they spotted over a million dollars’ worth of dope in the southeast part of the state,” Crabtree said. “We’re really fortunate that we are one of the few state police agencies that has an aviation section, and we’re going to keep flying.”