LOS LUNAS, N.M. (KRQE)- Law enforcement is taking to the air to cut down on crime.
Valencia and Torrance counties have teamed up with a unique aviation agency to help officers on the ground. The program is called Helicopter airborne law enforcement operations or HALO for short. A program out of Vertical Limit Aviation, it’s meant to cut down on property crime, assist in search and rescue missions and act as a deterrent to would-be criminals and so far, law enforcement says it’s working.
“It doesn’t matter where they go or where they try to hide, we’re going to see them,” HALO Pilot Douglas Christian said.
HALO Pilot Douglas Christian owns Vertical Limit Aviation. He explained most law enforcement agencies can benefit from a helicopter but can’t afford it.
Torrance County Sheriff Heath White says that’s not the case with HALO.
“We spend more on scene with overtime, other resources, fuel, things like that than we do per day spending for this program,” White said.
Christian has teamed up with Valencia and Torrance Counties. Each pay a chunk for Christian to be their eye in the sky. While deputies are looking for burglars and car thieves on the ground, Christian is tracking them from above.
“We’ve reduced our crime rate, just having the helicopter in the communities and rural areas,” White said.
His agency isn’t the only one.
“It’s been instrumental in helping us locate stolen vehicles,” said Valencia County Sheriff Louis Burkhard.
Burkhard said the helicopter has helped cut down on property crimes as well as track down offenders.
On a good day, Burkhard says they have five deputies on duty and one sergeant supervisor for close to 1,100 square miles. Yet, the helicopter provides what law enforcement calls a force multiplier, adding the equivalent of 15 officers to search capabilities.
“For us to move through the county and cover that much area, the air support is absolutely essential,” explained Burkhard.
That’s not to mention the security the chopper provides for officers on the ground.
“If we have a vehicle pursuit, we back our officers off and still keep our eyes on it from the air,” Burkhard said.
It’s why law enforcement says the program is an asset to law enforcement and communities alike.
Each county pays $7,200 a year or about $20 a day. Both Valencia and Torrence County Sheriffs say they use the service frequently- on an as-needed basis as well as routine patrols. Those patrols are something they say is essential for crime prevention.