The Los Angeles Police Department is pioneering the use of helicopters to stop crimes before they start, reports the Los Angeles Times. Tapping into the data-driven policing trend, the department uses heat maps, technology and years of statistics to identify crime “hot spots.” Pilots use their downtime to fly over them, on the theory that would-be criminals tend to rethink their plans when there’s an airship hovering overhead. What some see as an innovative tool for keeping the peace, others call a deafening intrusion.
So far, officials say, the stats show the strategy is having a positive effect. Months of data show that the number of serious crimes reported in the Newton Division in South L.A. fell during weeks when the helicopters conducted more flights. “It’s extremely cutting edge,” says Capt. Gary Walters, who heads the LAPD’s air support unit. “It’s different. It’s nothing that we’ve ever done before with this specificity. During the week of June 21, 2013, the helicopter unit flew 36 times over Newton, which saw 125 crimes reported in that period. During another week in July, the number of flights rose to 91 and the recorded crimes dropped to 86.