Thursday, September 27, 2012

Choreographing The Dance That Is An LAPD Car Chase

A long time ago, I spent a few years living in the Los Angeles area. Unlike law enforcement in most areas of the US, LA area cops nearly always have police helicopters in the air to assist them in policing the City of Angels. I can still remember hearing them flying over my apartment at all hours of the day and night. There was a fascinating piece over at the Atlantic Cities that looked at just how LAPD uses police helicopters in assisting with vehicle pursuits.
Los Angeles is the undeniable car chase capital of the world; LAPD's Air Support Division was engaged in a total of 245 vehicle pursuits in 2011 alone. The L.A. basin is also considered one of the most congested airspaces in the country, with nearly a dozen major and less-than major airports, a sprawling mishmash of aerially-monitored freeways, a vibrant helicopter tourism business, the world's largest municipal airborne law enforcement operation, and one of the country's major media markets.

When there's a homicide suspect holding an AK-47 and weaving a stolen car through the dense streets of the central city, following the pursuit from the skies is so common as to be almost unremarkable. But from inside a helicopter's cockpit, it's a high-adrenaline dance of air-to-ground and air-to-air coordination. With loaded weapons, crowded skies and a city full of innocent bystanders, chasing bad guys through the city of Los Angeles is a complex operation that's got more moving parts than all the helicopter blades chopping their way through the city's skies.
The piece is a great read. Too bad we don't have that kind of air support in the sleepy little burg where I work now.

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