Special Report: Eye In The Sky - WLNS TV 6 Lansing - Jackson | Your Local News Leader

Special Report: Eye In The Sky

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(WLNS) - For a few of Michigan's largest cities violent crime rates are now some of the worst in the country.

Now, a decades-old unit based right here in Lansing, is helping to fight crime across our state.

Shelby Miller rode along with pilots from the Michigan State Police as they fight crime, in Flint, from the sky.

Pilots: "Doors closed and locked. Good on the right and good in the back."

As these pilots prep for take off they get ready to become the Michigan State Police department's eyes in the sky

pilots: "we're in flight"

Five nights a week lieutenant Patrick Lawrence and Sergeant Jerry King fly thousands of feet above the ground.

From the air they team up with state troopers to combat crime.

With help from the sky troopers tracked a stolen car and arrested the suspect inside.

Sgt. Jerry King is the MSP unit pilot, "Where one officer can cover half a block visually, we can cover 10 or 12 square blocks. We can direct the ground assets to that bad guy."

MSP's aviation unit formed nearly 75 years ago. But this type of team-work is relatively new.

In 2012 Governor Rick Snyder started the state's new public safety plan. The "secure cities initiative" puts choppers above Michigan's most violent cities.

Sgt. King: "The fastest way for police to assist from the air is to be available and in the air when an event occurs. Prior to that it was, the event would happen, and then somebody would call us, and then we would come in and we would launch, and by then, it's far too late."

According to the FBI Flint, Detroit and Saginaw rank among the nation's top ten most violent cities.

Pilots patrol each city 20 hours a week.

Lawrence: "You're responding to crimes as they're happening, or as they come in, as opposed to waiting and responding to it later."

Flint's violent crime rate tops the list so we tagged along.

it's a warm Friday night in Flint which means a busy shift for these troopers.

From car chases to illegal drug busts and recovered stolen weapons troopers fight street crime with support from the sky.

A typical night's anything but typical.

As troopers pull people over..

Trooper: "What brings you out tonight?"

Pilots hover the helicopter above hot spots, shine spotlights on traffic stops, and help catch criminals as they try to flee a scene.

Trooper Ryan Dunlap: "When they realize there's a helicopter above them those options are really limited. They're not going to get away."

Since the secure cities initative kicked off Flint's seen a more than 30 percent decrease in violent crime.

Over the past two years Detroit and Saginaw's statistics have dropped too.

It's a feat these flyers feel good about but they strive to lower the crime rate even more.

Lawrence: "It's a very satisfying job anyway, but then when you're working in a city that's so hard hit that when you see stats like that that come out that you feel good about what you're doing to help the citizens and the officers who are on the ground."

The chopper not only helps stop crime it brings comfort to officers on the ground

Trooper Aaron Martin: "If we need them for anything they're always there and it's a great tool to have."

Troopers say the heliopter's presence alone has an immediate impact on a situation.

Trooper Aaron Martin: "A couple days ago we stopped a car and the helicopter came overhead and we arrested the guy who was driving and as he was sitting in our backseat he saw the helicopter and he commented on how good of a job we're doing here in the city and how crime is actually going down and this is coming from a guy we just arrested, so you know it's working."

While the secure cities initiative works to reduce crime it's no easy feat.

This job keeps these pilots on call 24-7 as they work to keep Michigan safe

Lawrence: "They know that we're there to help."

No matter the mission these pilots serve as the Michigan State Police's eyes in the sky.

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