Friday, May 24, 2013

Few complaints in Flint, Saginaw about helicopter patrols that irked Grand Rapids residents

GRAND RAPIDS, MI -- The state police helicopter patrols that irked many Grand Rapids residents last weekend have generally escaped similar scrutiny from residents in cities such as Flint and Saginaw.

"They're used to it I think," said Capt. Mike Caldwell of the state police Special Operations Division.

"It was new to the residents of Grand Rapids," he said.

Flights in Grand Rapids were "curtailed" after a Saturday patrol left many Grand Rapids residents complaining about noise from the low-flying chopper. Saturday's patrol was at least three hours, going from 8-11 p.m.

The state police began sending a helicopter to Grand Rapids in early April -- usually twice a week -- to help Grand Rapids police on the ground.

"We anticipated it would spark some complaints, which is not unusual," Caldwell said. "They do make a lot of noise. We realize that."

Caldwell said state police have conducted helicopter patrols in the cities of Pontiac, Flint, Saginaw and Detroit for years, possibly up to a decade.

"We try to spend two or three nights a week in those cities," he said.

He said state police helicopter flights in Grand Rapids will not be ending altogether, but likely only be made on a per-request basis.

"If the Grand Rapids Police Department wanted out helicopter tonight, it would be there," Caldwell said.

Despite the cool reception in Grand Rapids to the helicopters, Caldwell said he thinks the state could use more patrols. The state owns two helicopters at this point.

"I'm not shy about saying I would like to expand the program," he said. "Our pilots already fly hundreds of hours of overtime."

"We turn down many requests for the helicopters now simply because our pilots have too many hours or the helicopters are already in use," he said.

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