MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. -- Martin County residents can feel a little safer when they go to sleep at night, knowing deputies are doing more to watch for criminals.
An eye in the sky is keeping watch over their homes, which residents might hear, but criminals may not see.
The Martin County Sheriff’s Office Aviation Unit is changing its approach to fighting crime at night, putting in more flying hours and not waiting for a crime to happen to take flight.
For a couple months, Tactical Aviation Officer Edward Stagmiller says he and his pilot are spending several hours a night in the air, just to look for anything suspicious.
Stagmiller says in the past, they would typically spend just an hour in the air proactively looking for criminals, or they would fly in response to a call.
“We were getting plagued with burglaries and a lot of crimes that we were reacting to the next day,” Stagmiller said, prompting the changes.
The changes are working, Stagmiller said. Sometimes, they record criminals in the act who do not know they’re being watched from above.
“That’s probably the best part, watching criminals in the act when they have no idea they’re being watched, Stagmiller said.
Infrared cameras and night vision goggles help Stagmiller track the criminals.
Then, he guides deputies on the ground right to bad guys.
“That allows us to see a lot of things that our men and women on the ground patrolling aren’t able to see.”
In just the last two months, Stagmiller has spotted numerous crimes, including people stealing boat motors or mail from mail boxes.
He has recorded drug deals and captured video of a man shooting a gun at a sign. That man was suspected of shooting bullets at dozens of county buildings.
Their new, proactive approach to fighting crime from the sky is now the new norm, as it’s proving to protect people and property in the county.
“When the highs are highs you ride them, and we’re definitely on a high right now, finding a lot of stuff and the results are really good.”