RALEIGH, NC (WNCN) — We’re used to the highway patrol keeping us safe on the streets, but now they’re adding more eyes in the sky.
“These new helicopters are definitely game-changers to our organization,” said North Carolina State Highway Patrol Commander Glenn McNeill.
The NCSHP is adding two new helicopters to their arsenal that each come with a $2.1 million price tag, and McNeill says they’re worth every penny.
“We view it as a blessing,” said McNeill. “We have already seen these aircraft save lives.”
It’s a cost that might not have been necessary if not for a crash during a training exercise in June 2018.
“It certainly accelerated our discussions,” said Erik Hooks. “We had been in discussions all the while concerning upgrading the technology, and upgrading our aircraft to be on the cutting edge.”
Both passengers in the 2018 incident were able to walk away, but the technology on the new choppers ensures that it won’t be easy for criminals trying to avoid arrest.
“From 7 miles away we can literally see the buttons on your shirt,” said McNeill.
It was that technology that allowed a quick arrest when Trooper Daniel Harrell was shot near Elm City in January.
“With the awesome technology we have aboard these two aircraft they were able to identify and locate a very dangerous person,” said McNeill. “In my eyes, locating that one very dangerous person that had harmed one of our state troopers — they’ve already paid for themselves.”
The new helicopters are already in the sky across North Carolina seven days a week.
The majority of the calls are to assist local police departments locating missing persons and assisting in swift water rescues.