Ohio State Highway Patrol offers eyes in the sky for local police


The Ohio State Highway Patrol said 70 percent of its air missions aid outside agencies, and now flying more proactive patrols.

Highway Patrol pilots alert Ohio cities, like Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Dayton, when they will be flying in the area and available for air support.

It's a new initiative that paid off Monday evening in Westerville where police were searching for a man they say tried to steal a large television from a Kohls' store, and got into a physical confrontation with a security guard.

OSHP pilots said Westerville police had set up a seal tight perimeter and said it didn't take long for the chopper's FLIR thermal imaging camera to pick up a clear, even detailed, image of the fleeing suspect even though it was pitch dark.

Audio recordings captured OSHP's clear instructions to officers in cruisers as the man they're chasing clearly tried to take cover behind a tree.

"Westerville's on him. Westerville's on him. They just passed him...running back behind the Westerville unit. Running again. Running again."

Westerville Police said the aerial view combined with the camera technology helps catch bad guys and protect officers.

"We've just seen this last week two-foot chases that ended in fatal shootings of police officers across the United States," said Westerville Police Chief Joe Morbitzer.

In the end, this mission was a success and Westerville police took the suspect into custody. OSHP said in some cases the mere presence of a chopper is all it takes to stop a suspect.

"Many times just the sound of the helicopter overhead will make that suspect stop, hide, stay in position and that gives the K9 units the ability to get in and move in on that suspect. We've had prison escapees who've said I wouldn't have been here if it hadn't been for the helicopter but I couldn't move," said Sgt. Hasty.

The Columbus Division of Police Helicopter Unit also lends air support to law enforcement agencies in Central Ohio. Both CPD and OSHP provide the service at no cost.