Long Island police look to the skies for technological patrol advantage

Posted on Nov 24, 2015


The never-ending quest for effective technology that increases visibility and extends the reach of law enforcement has taken to the skies in the metro New York area. The police departments in Nassau and Suffolk Counties - the two municipalities that make up Long Island - recently upgraded the video technology on their helicopters, a change that could significantly improve the ability of those flying units to transmit information to officers on the ground. Instead of relying only on officers in the helicopter serving as spotters during a search or pursuit, advances in video technology allow the live streaming of the camera's feed to personnel on the ground in real time, according to Newsday.

Getting more out of airborne units
The upgrades to the helicopter units in both counties are in their beginning stages. Nassau helicopters currently offer access to the live feed only to supervisors, while the units in Suffolk are still in the testing phase, according to Newsday. Despite the assessments and subsequent fine tuning that need to occur before the two departments can roll out access on a wider basis, enthusiasm is high in the two departments. Suffolk Captain John Blosser told Newsday the increased, departmentwide visibility the improved camera systems provide could be a game changer for the two law enforcement organizations.

"It has tremendous potential," Blosser said to Newsday. "We've been using helicopters for decades. The difference now is, the sergeant sitting in the car can be watching it. They can see it themselves."

"New law enforcement technologies are advancing real-time communication to aid crime control."

Already making a difference
In Nassau, clear results from the upgrade are visible. Local ABC affiliate WABC reported thermal imaging, part of an improved camera array, helped officers catch a suspect wanted for breaking into multiple cars in the county. The other major addition in terms of direct camera functionality is a powerful digital zoom feature. WABC said the new system is powerful enough to zoom in on and capture readable images of a license plate from 800 to 1,000 feet away. That level of visibility is also enough to provide clear video of suspects and other persons of interest, even when the helicopter is high in the air.

Improving existing assets
From both operational and financial perspectives, the upgrades to the Nassau and Suffolk County helicopters make practical sense. The benefits of a real-time eye in the sky that can share a valuable visual feed during searches and pursuits is clearly an improvement over the previous functionality of the units. The cost-saving elements of the upgrade - a grant from the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Coast Guard, and the upgrading of specific helicopter equipment instead of the purchase of entirely new vehicles - are worth noting as well. The two departments will likely see an enhancement in the ability of their airborne units to aid crime control efforts and communicate information to personnel on the ground in real time.

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