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posted by janrinok on Saturday March 14 2015, @05:47AM   Printer-friendly
from the deters-not-prevents dept.

True Angelenos don't even bother to look up when one of the LAPD's 17 helicopters rattles their windows searching for a car-jacked Camry or an assault suspect hiding under a jacaranda but few doubt that more bad guys would get away without the nation's largest police helicopter fleet to help chase them. Now the LA Times reports that data shows that LA's helicopters are stopping crimes before they happen. Tapping into the data-driven policing trend, the department uses heat maps, technology and years of statistics to identify crime "hot spots." Pilots then use their downtime to fly over them, on the theory that would-be criminals tend to rethink their nefarious plans when there's "ghetto birds," as Ice Cube calls them, hovering overhead. Months of data show that the number of serious crimes reported in the LAPD's Newton Division in South L.A. fell during weeks when the helicopters conducted more flights. During the week of Sept. 13, when the helicopter unit flew over Newton 65 times, the division recorded 90 crimes. A week later, the number of flights dropped to 40 and the number of reported crimes skyrocketed to 136, with rises seen among almost all types of crime, including burglary, car theft and thefts from vehicles. "It's extremely cutting edge," says Capt. Gary Walters, who heads the LAPD's air support unit. "It's different. It's nothing that we've ever done before with this specificity."

But Professor Geoffrey Alpert. a policing expert who has studied the use of police helicopters in Miami and Baltimore, says the choppers can deter crime in the short-term but criminals will likely return when they're not around (PDF). "You are deterring the criminals but you aren't getting rid of them and their intent. Those criminals could strike in a different time and place," says Alpert. "I mean that’s the whole thing about random patrol. You see a police car and it’s the same thing. You hide, he goes around the block and you go back to your breaking and entering.”

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  • (Score: 1) by o_o on Sunday March 15 2015, @01:11PM

    by o_o (1544) on Sunday March 15 2015, @01:11PM (#158011)

    .. unless by 'helicopter' the authors mean 'assault helicopter'. And here is why: real crime, not just trigger-happy halfwits that shoot at each other's general direction (cops included), is not at all how this 'study' paints it. Helicopters are good (but not the best) for recon, and are even better for showing off to your opponent ("Fear my mighty inescapable helicopter. That flies. Like in the movies.") but that's pretty much it. Beyond that, remember a helicopter is at a pretty volatile position because a) it is slow, b) it cannot take cover, and c) any mechanical failure while airborne can be a nightmare at best, and death at worst. This is why you will never see helicopters over actual crimes where assault rifles are at play: any sharpshoot can take them out easily, as can any good sharpshoot with an accurate handgun, and the police is well aware of that. Heck, even a couple of trained musketmen can take helicopters out if they retain their cool.

    So I call bullshit. And I am a bit surprised that police does not yet have their own assault helicopters, with the over-the-top militarization of police that has been going on in this country for the past two decades and whatnot.