Fighting crime from the sky in Harford County

Helicopters can't replace officers on the ground, but choppers are assisting police in the fight against crime in Harford County. 

Ready for a flight on Eagle One at any moment, the aviation team consists of two pilots and eight tactical flight officers - or TFO.

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Vincent Denardi and Jim Markley are both TFOs, each able to bring experience and skills from past positions to their law enforcement missions.
 
Denardi was an Army Airborne Ranger and worked extensively with helicopters and airplanes, while Markley spent time in the United States Coast Guard as a flight mechanic. 
 
Both deputies with the sheriff's office, they are used to fighting crime on the ground and jumped at the chance to fight it from the air.
 
"I know the value that aviation, especially helicopters, can have for helping the community and search and rescue and carrying out various law enforcement missions," Markley said. 
 
Lt. Lee Dunbar with the aviation unit said in its short time on the force, Eagle One's value has already been proven.
 
"It has made our officers safer out on the street and made our community safer and one of the things that we can do with aviation platform with that eye in the sky, we can see a much larger area," Dunbar said. 
 
He explained the eyes from the sky are equivalent to having up to 20 deputies on the ground. 
 
Dunbar said the chopper helps them catch 30-40 percent more suspects on the run.
 
"Subjects that are on the run, burglary suspects, armed robbery suspects, you name it. If they're out there and fleeing, we can get up there and track them," he said. "We can see multiple square miles at one point."
 
The team says when it comes to high speed pursuits, they have a major advantage.
 
"We can have the deputies or the police or whoever is involved back off and it's safer for the community so they're not pursuing the vehicle, we can keep eyes on it until it stops and the people get out so we can effect the arrest hopefully safer," Markley said. 
 
From suspect searches, to crime scene photography and storm damage assessment, Eagle One is on top of it. 
 
It is loaded with specialized equipment, helping deputies on the ground.
 
For now, it is a part time unit that the Harford County Sheriff's Office says is at no cost to the taxpayer.
 
"Our operational expenses are fully covered with drug assets, we're using no tax dollars," Lt. Dunbar said.  
That is how the helicopter will be funded for the first two years.  After that, Lt. Dunbar said the aviation unit will turn to taxpayers. 
 
"We can run this aircraft and the other aircraft with two full time pilots, we believe, for approximately $500,000 and what that equates to is approximately $5 more per property tax payer a year. 
 
A small price to pay, Dunbar said, for a life saving addition.
 
Before adding Eagle One to the team, Harford County had to rely on other counties or state police when they needed that air support. 
 
Dunbar also stressed that the aviation unit never leaves any of their divisions short staffed.
 
The pilots and TFO are only scheduled when their other units are fully staffed.  
 
 
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