Police helicopters are used in several capacities and play a very important role in law enforcement.

If you’re wondering what police helicopters look for when you see them flying over your house during the day or at night or flying over any other area, the answer is that they look for violent crimes in progress, the movement of suspects, and property crimes.

Police helicopters are also used for traffic stops, perimeters, and generally just for effectively and efficiently surveying a large area such as in the event of monitoring public gatherings or to find a missing person.

4 Common Things Police Helicopters Look For

Pursuing Suspects

We’ve all seen the enthralling sight of police cruisers in hot pursuit of suspects on TV.

Police helicopters are very useful in this kind of scenario, as they are able to better track the movement of suspects while also putting more pressure on the suspects to make bad decisions as they attempt to getaway.

Fleeing a police car is one thing, but trying to evade a police helicopter that is able to survey a very wide area is another.

A police helicopter’s crew also usually liaises with the ground crew by informing the officers of all the turns and directions a suspect’s vehicle takes. This helps to better set up a blockade, lead a suspect away from populated areas, and set up a Stinger (tire deflation device).

Tracking Suspects

Police helicopters may be used to track suspicious suspects, whether that be on land, sea, or air.

Police helicopters can look out for and track vehicles, boats, and aircraft used by the suspect, in order to gather important video evidence and even lead to bigger fish.

Ideally, of course, the suspect won’t be aware that they are being tracked.

Property Crimes

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that police helicopters are effective at preventing and lowering the frequency of property crimes, such as motor vehicle thefts, burglaries, and even robberies.

From a criminal’s point of view, if they’re thinking of breaking into that car or house but suddenly hear the loud noise of a helicopter flying overhead, they’re unlikely to proceed with the crime.

Police helicopters can’t see inside a house, but if equipped with an infrared camera, it can detect movement inside a property.

Monitoring Gatherings

Due to a helicopter’s unique ability to survey a wide area efficiently and effectively, the police often use them to better monitor large public gatherings.

It’s common to see police helicopters flying overhead during large protests, large events like marathons, or otherwise any other important gathering where surveillance is deemed necessary.

How Police Helicopters Find What They Are Looking For

Police helicopters are equipped with thermal imaging equipment, as well as spotlights and high definition, fully digital camera systems. They all play an important role in police helicopters being able to effectively find what they are looking for.

The infrared and HD cameras feature powerful zoom and digital imaging capabilities that allow officers to see greater details at greater distances, with the infrared camera being particularly useful at nighttime due to easily being able to detect the heat radiated off objects.

Why Police Helicopters Fly In Circles At Night

Very often, police helicopters aren’t taking off in order to fly from point A to point B.

Instead, police helicopters fly in circles at night to patrol an area – much to the annoyance of residents and people in the area.

Why a Police Helicopter Might Be Flying Over Your House

Unless you’ve been doing something very wrong and illegal, it’s unlikely that a police helicopter is specifically flying over your house.

The reason a police helicopter might be flying in your neighborhood is likely to because it is pursuing and tracking suspects, or for any other important surveillance purpose.

Helen Krasner holds a PPL(A), with 15 years experience flying fixed-wing aircraft; a PPL(H), with 13 years experience flying helicopters; and a CPL(H), Helicopter Instructor Rating, with 12 years working as a helicopter instructor.

Helen is an accomplished aviation writer with 12 years of experience, having authored several books and published numerous articles while also serving as the Editor of the BWPA (British Women Pilots Association) newsletter, with her excellent work having been recognized with her nomination of the “Aviation Journalist of the Year” award.

Helen has won the “Dawn to Dusk” International Flying Competition, along with the best all-female competitors, three times with her copilot.