Columbus Police Department Helicopter Unit provides invaluable eyes in the sky

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They are the eyes in the sky, guiding officers on the ground, and helping find those who are missing.

Columbus police have a helicopter crew in the air 16 hours a day, if the weather cooperates. There are 21 members in the unit who operate 5 different helicopters.

“We are considered a force multiplier. Some people in our industry say with a two-person air crew, such as we have, we can increase and perform the job of 20 officers when trying to conduct some type of area search,” said Sgt. Michael Smith, a pilot in the unit.

Monday, they took 10tv’s Lacey Crisp along for a flight to show just how valuable the unit is. Last year they took credit for finding 24 missing people.

“You have to ask yourself, what's the value of one person who has been reunited, found safe and back where they need to be. It's invaluable,” Smith explained.

They also are invaluable for officers on the ground, trying to help guide them, and keep them safe.

“Thing like tactical situations, or more high-risk situations, foot pursuits, vehicle pursuits, violent crimes in progress, to have the surety to know that you have a helicopter overhead that can have some sort of stand-off from the incident,” Smith said.

Not every law enforcement department can afford a helicopter unit. Columbus Police try to help when they can. They get called an average of 20 times a month from other departments. That’s one of the reasons these pilots are grateful to have a job they love so much.

“The asset, to be able to use such a tool as a helicopter to conduct that business, in my mind, you can't put a price tag on it,” said Smith.

On average, the unit is responsible for 300 felony arrests, and 200 misdemeanor arrests. They have an average response time of 1.3 minutes.