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by Peter Moskos

April 1, 2009

Police Helicopters Cramp My Style

When I was in Baltimore, Foxtrot was down. Foxtrot was the police helicopter. It had crashed. Since then, they got another up in the air. I just stumbled across an old email I wrote my brother back in July, 2002, after a trip to L.A.
I was in LA for 2 days.... We went to bed in West Hollywood at 11 PM to get up at 5 AM. At 3 AM I was having a horrible dream about being under terrorist attack and having to evacuate. When I woke to scary sounds, I discovered a police helicopter circling near by with spot light on and some recorded 1984-like voice saying, "This is the LAPD. Come out with your hands up. You will not be hurt."

Cool, just like the movies, I thought. And just as annoying as I always thought it would be. The voice went on for a few minutes, the helicopter circled for about 10-15 minutes (hard to say when you're pissed off and trying to sleep). Short tight circles that gave it a weird sound. I don't know if that's better or worse than it staying still. Of course, I was thinking about shooting if down from the sky. So maybe that's why it circles.

I only want that damn helicopter out if some guy is walking down the street shooting people. If nobody was shot, I don't care what that guy did, let him go. It's not worth waking up a whole neighborhood. Fuck the Po-lice. And I'm sure it's much worse in South-Central that frigin' Hollywood/Beverly Hills.

It's another example of police being focused on catching people after the fact rather than preventing crime. And while it is true that it's hard to get away from a helicopter. If they were so effective, then why would anybody run in the first place, or continue to run once the helicopter is there? It's just not worth it.

But it deserves note that LA has only about 8,000 cops. That's only 3 times Baltimore for a city much bigger (New York has something like 40,000 cops). So maybe they do more with less. Of course, maybe they could have an extra hundred cops for each helicopter. Those things are expensive.


jeff said...

So, helicopters should not be used? I understand about being awakened by helicopter at 3 in the morning. It has happened to me and it sucks. But the use of the helicopter is a great tool in the police officers bag of tricks. When a crime does happen and the officer does chase the criminal the helicopter is a remarkable tool. Especially if the is a car chase involve. See http://jeffmarshall.org/papers/Capstone_Project.pdf
Yes, the police should focus their efforts on preventing crime, but you and I both know the police cannot be everyone. Sure, upper management would like for their officers to give that feeling that the police are all over the place. Management wants the public and criminals to experience that so crimes do not occur. What I am say is that when a crime does happen, police officers need to have as many tools necessary that can be used to apprehend the criminal. If, one instrument is having a helicopter flying over your head at 3 in the morning then, I am sorry for that, but I think we still must consider public safety at the same time.

PCM said...

I think at night, only if a life is at stake.

SabotageGigante said...

The funny thing is, after a while you get used to it. In fact, after a few years of living in LA I left town for a while and couldn't sleep. I could never put my finger on the problem till I landed at Burbank Airport. I heard the familiar sound of a helo circling somewhere overhead and knew I was home. Slept like a baby that night

PCM said...

That's great! And I here in New York find the sound of the elevated subway train strangely soothing.

I think when it comes to the helicopter, police also have to take into account how much fear it helps bring out in ordinary citizens.

Let me tell you, I did not feel safer with that baby circling above.

Anonymous said...

I found this article because I was specifically trying to see if anyone was writing about this on the web. The helicopter noise has gotten SO bad in Hollywood that I'm considering investing in soundproofing.

Sure, these things can be great for apprehending those in speeding cars, but what is the purpose, short of a nuclear meltdown, for them to circle for sometimes an HOUR and a HALF at a time, WELL past 2am??? There is absolutely no reason for this. And with the recent crash in New York with the commuter plane, consider the CONSTANT traffic of copters (LAPD, CHP, Sheriff, Coast Guard, and tour helicopters before we even get into the ones we cant identify) its only a matter of time before it happens here in Hollywood. You guys need to find another solution and knock the bloody noise off!!!

PCM said...

I can't believe the good people of Hollywood aren't more up in arms about this. Or investing in anti-aircraft guns. It's crazy.

Anonymous said...

You people are idiots. Another example of not seeing the forest through the trees. And Moskos...you take the prize. When you were employed by the Baltimore Police ( I say employed, because you OBVIOUSLY weren't a cop), you never got to realize the value of a police helicopter. As a street cop, when I wanted a helicopter, I wanted in NOW...not in 20 minutes. In 3 or 4 minutes, the incident is over and the suspect possibly got away. Keep writing trash...it's fodder for the masses.

PCM said...

When I was a cop, we didn't have a helicopter (it had crashed a few years earlier), so hard for me to say. But somehow, we all managed to police just fine.

Yeah, some people did get away after a foot pursuit. As a rule, we wouldn't chase people through a vacant in case we'd fall through the floor. Unfortunate, but so what? They'd be hanging out on the same corner the next night.

But what I really find amazing is how obnoxious an anonymous poster can get over a 2-year-old post about a friggin' helicopter. Get some perspective. Get some manners. And while you're at it, try to keep your home life from falling apart. I bet they don't understand you, either.