I-Team: New way Ohio State Highway Patrol is watching from the sky

The FOX 8 I-Team has found the Ohio Highway Patrol fighting crime from the air with a new strategy to protect your streets.

The patrol is using its helicopters in new ways. Chopper crews are teaming up with troopers on the ground more often instead of waiting to be called in to search.

In other words, when troopers plan a crackdown or they target a specific area, chopper crews get brought in from the start.

Lt. Robert Sellers said critical benefits of doing it that way are better response times and fewer chases. "Being there and being able to respond in a timely manner," he said. Sellers added, “The main point of that is safety. We increase the safety for the citizens. We increase the safety for our officers by not pursuing as often letting the helicopter do the work. We can back off on our driving.”

In fact, a video clip from the chopper unit shows air crews recently helped track down a dirt bike rider who’d sped away from troopers. He then ditched the bike behind a house, and then ran through yards. Another clip shows the chopper crew following two men who’d taken off in a car. They then tried to disappear by jumping out of the car and running off. In both of those cases, troopers in their cars did not have to speed through the streets since the helicopter was there to watch from above.

The patrol’s new approach comes as Cleveland police also look more to the air.

The I-Team has shown you Cleveland police have been fighting crime in the city from the air for years with two choppers. But due to budget cuts, they've been on the ground more often than in the air. Although the city now is moving forward on new hiring for the aviation unit, so the Cleveland police choppers will be able to fly for more patrols.

The Ohio Highway Patrol flies three helicopters. They have mapping systems. Plus, they have cameras that can see day and night and even sense heat to find a suspect hiding -- all now used to fight crime like never before.

The patrol also has more than a dozen airplanes used to track speeders.

One more video clip shows an added benefit of having the choppers up more often. They can help out unexpectedly when other crime scenes develop. A patrol chopper helped find a suspect in Shaker Heights hiding from police there. The helicopter crew found him when his body heat showed up on camera.