LANCASTER – The Lancaster Sheriff’s Station held a press conference Thursday to provide an update on the city’s newest crime fighting tool – the Law Enforcement Aerial Platform System (LEAPS). (Read more about the system here.)
“It’s been good, but we anticipate that it’s going to be improving as the weeks go on,” said Lancaster Sheriff’s Station Lieutenant Pat Nelson.
Nelson said since LEAPS launched about five weeks ago, the piloted Cessna 172, fitted with high-tech optical equipment, has surveilled the city at cruising altitudes of 3,000 feet, for 10 hours a day, seven days a week, with built in breaks for refueling when necessary.
Like with any new project, there have been some difficulties in getting some of the bugs ironed out, Nelson said.
“But those are steadily improving, and we’ve had some good success with the camera over the last couple of weeks,” Nelson said.
He said the new system has been especially effective for crime scene containments, providing immediate assessments of situations before ground units can get to the scene.
Less than a week after LEAPS was launched, the aircraft assisted the Los Angeles Police Department in catching a man wanted in connection with a double homicide, authorities said. Upon receiving the call for assistance, LEAPS was dispatched to the area and, within seconds, obtained an aerial view of the apartment complex where the suspect was thought to be hiding. Using this information, the LAPD’s units were able to successfully contain the area and take the suspect into custody without incident (read more here).
Nelson said there have been other situations over the past couple of weeks that demonstrate the capabilities of the new crime fighting tool.
“We had a burglary alarm tripped on a business on Sierra Highway,” Nelson said. “The camera operator [for LEAPS] was able to focus on the business almost immediately, well before the ground units were able to get to the location.”
LEAPS zoned in on a vehicle leaving the parking lot of the business and tracked the vehicle to a different location, and then deputies responded to the location and detained the occupant, Nelson said.
The occupant in the vehicle turned out to be the owner of the business who had accidentally tripped the alarm when he left. Still, the incident demonstrates how useful the aerial surveillance system can be, Nelson said.
“Had it been a burglary, it would have been a great example,” he added.
LEAPS was also helpful in locating a missing juvenile two weeks ago, Nelson said.
“There was some concern that this juvenile may be suicidal,” he said. “We were able to use the LEAPS system for a period of several hours and ultimately assist in locating this juvenile.”
The youth was later determined not to be suicidal and was returned safely to his family.
“The concept of LEAPS is going to be a great tool in our toolbox, probably most importantly, for allowing almost immediate intelligence for ground units that are responding to a call,” Nelson said.
Read previous articles on the Law Enforcement Aerial Platform System below: