I-Team: More police air patrols coming?

CLEVELAND- The FOX 8 I-Team has learned you could start seeing more protection on your streets—from the air. The Cleveland Police Department could hire more pilots for its police helicopters.

Sgt. Jennifer Ciaccia told the I-Team, “They’ve interviewed pilots. Nothing is finalized.”

However, we’ve learned as many as four pilots could be hired at least part-time.

Patrol officers on the ground can be heard on police radio on a regular basis asking if a police chopper is flying. Most often, the answer is no.

The unit has two helicopters operating with just a handful of people usually flying during special events and during other limited shifts.

The I-Team has shown you, when the choppers are flying, they’ve been involved in tracking cars speeding away from officers on the ground, special cameras have found dangerous suspects hiding at night or in heavy brush, and they’ve even patrolled during the celebrations of big sports events including the night the Cavs won the NBA championship.

A big reason Cleveland police haven’t had a chopper in the air more often: money. Running aviation patrols gets expensive.

Over the years, some local leaders have talked about turning the Cleveland police chopper unit into a regional unit that could patrol streets all over Northeast Ohio with other towns helping to cover the cost. But that has never moved forward.

So for now, you’ll still likely see a Cleveland police helicopter up around the Cavs NBA Finals games. The choppers will still fly on a limited basis. But now, for the first time in a long time, talk about finding a way to have air patrols more often.

More, here.