KOLD Investigates: Pima County has new eyes in the sky

Published: Oct. 19, 2021 at 5:17 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - There are new eyes in the sky over Pima County.

The Pima County Sheriff’s Department has two new and improved planes to help them fight crime..

Planes are considered the unsung heroes in law enforcement air support. Helicopters, which are seen by the community, usually get the glory.

The fixed-wing planes on the other hand are stealthier. They fly high in the sky and stay in the background.

The PCSD bought two Cessna planes to replace its old one. One of them is already here and operational with the other is still on the way.

Are these new multimillion-dollar planes worth the upgrade? Will they make Pima County a safer place to live?

“This is going to at least double our service to the community,” said Sgt. Michael Mosley, who oversees the air unit.

Total cost for both planes: $7.5 million. One of them is replacing a 1999 Cessna that’s been in service since 2013. The inside is worn and a bit cramped.

And during turbulent conditions, pilot Chris Janes said, its monitors tend to swing, which can be a little bit of a hazard. It’s on the ground more than half the time, he said.

“The only upgrade is the new technology that’s coming out,” he said. “The new camera is a much higher-def quality.”

That camera has the latest tracking technology and night vision capabilities. It helps with high speed pursuits, Janes said, since they can get a much better view of the road than patrol cars.

“We’re able to completely take our patrol cars out of the pursuits, which modifies the driving behavior of the person who’s fleeing from us to slow down, follow traffic controls. And ultimately, our goal is to have them park and then get out on foot,” he said.

It also alleviates some of the call load on deputies, they say, like finding a missing person or monitoring traffic jams, floods, fires and any suspicious activity. And it keeping the new plane in the air will be cheaper than the old one.

“It came ready for the wears of patrol duty. Staying up in the air, you know, 6, 7, 8 hours a shift at night where we can no longer provide that with our older aircraft,” Mosley said.

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