Does this look familiar?
"Speed enforcement by aircraft."
You've probably seen one along the freeway but have you ever wondered: Do police actually use planes for speed control?
It turns out, they do!
“Often times, people don’t even know we are up here,” CHP Flight Officer Troy Marks said. “We cover 13 counties north and south of Sacramento.”
If weather is good, CHP's Valley Air Operation Unit is in the sky just about every day.
Cruising at about 4000 feet, CHP’s sophisticated plan can see it all. It’s equipped with a night vision camera that can zoom into a vehicle from four miles away.
"Last year, our unit wrote about 500 citations from the air," Officer Marks said.
Obviously, the air operations unit can't pull vehicles over from the air so when officer Marks spots a speeder, he has to radio to an officer on the ground to write a ticket for him.
“I go to court quite often and when I do I bring the video with me,” Officer Marks said.
The plane’s onboard camera and GPS system allows officers to record and check the speed of vehicles multiple times. The video proof makes it very difficult to talk your way out of a ticket.
Aircraft speed enforcement dates back to oil crisis of 1974 when the federally-mandated 55 mile per hour speed limit was put into place.
"Back in the 80's, we determined speed by timing the planes speed with the painted white marks on the highway," Officer Marks said.
When federal government speed limits were lifted in 1995, the California Air Operations units expanded their focus to helping officers on the ground.
"We still do speed enforcement it’s just not as concentrated,” Officer Marks said.
The Valley Air Operations Unit helped put Austin Scott behind bars last year. Scott was charged with attempted murder and accused of fleeing the scene after running over CHP Officer Michael Ericson in April.
"We were able to circle over the interstate and intercept the pickup truck,” Officer Marks said.
Today, street side shows is one of the latest focal points for the air operations unit.
"We have had instance where they shut down the freeway," Officer Marks said.
Night vision on the CHP planes are proving to be a big help in locating these illegal side shows. You may not be able to see them in the air, but the road signs don’t lie.
Aircraft enforcement is a real thing.
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