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West Michigan’s Newest Crime Fighter

Posted: 12:20 AM, Apr 30, 2013
Updated: 2013-04-30 00:20:14-04

 West Mich.- There’s a new buzz around West Michigan and you may have heard it flying above your home.  Michigan State Police have a new helicopter.  It’s a ‘State of the Art’ crime fighting tool that’s already patrolling our West Michigan to help keep you safe.

The Bell 430 is already being utilized in the search for Jessica Heeringa and is fully equipped to assist in any kind of search from the air.

In the Jessica Heeringa case, it’s five different radios and a day and low light night-time camera that allows the pilot to take a photo then bring it into the aircraft to monitor.

MSP says the chopper is the equivalent of 10 officers on the ground and they say that forced multiplier saves lives.

The pilots wear night vision goggles and the chopper has a Forward Looking Infrared device or FLIR.  That’s the same technology that helped capture the Boston Marathon Bombing suspect.

The aerial asset comes to West Michigan as an initiative from Governor Rick Snyder after a spike in violent crime.  The funding comes out of the Michigan State Police general fund used for assets like the bomb squad, dive team and K-9 units.  Tax payers from the entire state contribute, and West Michigan gets the aerial patrols.

MSP anticipates the crime dropping in West Michigan, and they’ve already seen the helicopter, which travels as fast as 150 MPH, act as a deterrent. And MSP stresses the new helicopter is not an invasion of privacy.

Michigan State Police say the helicopter costs less than one patrol officer a year, around $50,000.  Fuel is $633 per flight hour.