GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Michigan State Police helicopters have been heard above Grand Rapids in recent days -- and it will be a common sound in the next few months.
MSP dispatchers in Lansing told 24 Hour News 8 Wednesday that low-flying helicopters above Grand Rapids and the metro area were training. But Thursday, MSP announced it is starting air patrols in the area.
"You're going to start to see some helicopter patrols," said MSP Rockford Post Commander Chris McIntire Thursday.
One of the helicopter's pilots said Thursday it will fly two or three times a week until June. It will run for about five hours at a time between 4 p.m. and midnight. The patrols will mostly be over Kent County, but may be called to go elsewhere in West Michigan.
Officers in the helicopters will be armed with handguns and a rifle, but they are used only in an worst-case scenario and officers will not necessarily be shooting from the air.
McIntire said the patrols are because of recent violence in and around Grand Rapids. There were nine homicides in the City of Grand Rapids between mid-December and mid-January, four of which remain unsolved.
MSP said it has led similar efforts on the east side of the state. Here in West Michigan, MSP hopes the patrols help police on the ground.
Pilot Jerry King said he can see much more from the sky, directing officers on the ground to suspects.
"That's why I'm here today, is to let the public know that we are out here," said McIntire. "So you may see helicopters flying. It's a positive thing. Hopefully we're going to put more bad guys in jail and keep them safe."
Wednesday, the helicopter aided in the search of a suspect who took off on foot from a traffic stop. That suspect was eventually located by a Grand Rapids Police Department K9.
Local law enforcement agencies will not have to pay for the patrols. They will be paid for by the MSP general fund.
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