HAMILTON, Ohio - It may sound more like a 60s era Volkswagen than a flying crime fighter, but Butler County's compact Robinson helicopter is no slouch when it takes to the sky.
It can cruise at 110 miles an hour.
The tiny cockpit is crammed with high tech equipment; GPS navigation, visible light and infra red cameras, two police radios and a search light that puts out 10 million candle power.
"It looks like daylight," said Deputy Michael Armocida who handles the controls.
He's been flying police choppers for 37 years.
"When you get in this thing and fire it up, you go, 'Umm, that's what it's all about,' and go do the job," he said.
The job varies from day to day.
"You have an aerial perspective that is so different than from the ground," Armocida said.
Some of it is surprisingly easy, like finding indoor marijuana growhouses with an infrared camera.
"It'll light up like a bulb on a Christmas tree," he said.
Some jobs, like finding missing persons, are not so simple.
"Kids are tough," Armocida said, "but Alzheimer's patients are probably the most difficult."
He says that's because often, they don't want to be found.
One question Armocida says he's asked over and over by taxpayers: "How do we have a helicopter when we're laying people off?"
Turns out this bird earns its own keep, doing drug eradication missions for the state and federal governments.
"To where we can make a pretty substantial amount of money, to totally support the program," he said.
So much so, they are able to fly for other county jurisdictions when needed at no charge.
"We utilize those monies for the benefit of everybody," he said.
Armocida evaluates each flight request individually, and decides if it is an appropriate use of the equipment.
That allows them something almost unheard of in government circles, he says. "We're always in the black every year."
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