Faced with urban sprawl, increasing calls for service. and a shortage of police officers, Arizona law-enforcement agencies are turning to air patrols more often to respond quicker to emergency calls, says the Arizona Republic. Officials say helicopters put officers at a scene faster, give them a better chance of spotting a fleeing suspect, and reduce the risks to officers and citizens on the ground. “It’s the wave of the future,” said Phoenix police pilot Paul Apolinar.
Aircraft play an invaluable role when it comes to search-and-rescue missions, and also in ensuring that ports, nuclear facilities, and other infrastructure are protected, said Dan Schwarzbach, a Houston police pilot and president of the Airborne Law Enforcement Association. “People used to think of an air unit as a luxury,” said Mesa, Az., police Sgt. Sherry Burlingame. “Now it’s more of a necessity.” Phoenix police is rebuilding its air fleet and plans to increase its time in the air from 16 to 21 hours a day within the next couple of years. Said one police pilot: “We’re just doing what a normal patrol officer would do in a patrol car, but we’re doing it from the air. We can see both sides of the highway and 10 miles up. That’s our advantage.  We can get the whole picture.”