GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – You may have seen or heard something unfamiliar in the skies of West Michigan recently.
What you are likely seeing is a Michigan State Police helicopter.
Police say it’s an extra tool being used to fight crime, offering several advantages to officers on the ground.
According to Michigan State Police, an unusual spike in homicides in Grand Rapids this winter is just one reason the US District Attorney for West Michigan announced a new push to fight violent crime in the area from above.
Sgt. Jerry King is one of the helicopter pilots for the Michigan State Police, “We are looking for traffic stops or calls for assistance where we can be of assistance.”
A police helicopter will be seen in the West Michigan skies from April through June.
“Should somebody decide that they don’t want to stop then we are already pointed in that direction,” said Sgt. King.
That was the case Wednesday night, when a routine traffic stop along Grandville Avenue in Grand Rapids turned into a chase.
Sgt. King said, “We can contain that person so that ground units or K9 can get in the area and start closing the perimeter down.”
That’s what police said happened when they arrested a driver who ran because he didn’t have a license. He was found hiding in a nearby park.
In addition to the chase, the helicopter was involved in 25 other traffic stops Wednesday night.
Sgt. King said with tools like GPS, night vision, heat sensors and a spot light, even the threat of a helicopter can be even to deter crime.
State Police said they have two helicopters to cover the State. They are kept in Lansing but they can refuel at Gerald R. Ford Airport to keep it in the area as long as needed.
The helicopter can also be used to help find missing persons or located illegal pot growing operations.