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Here is the text version of the story (KIRKSVILLE, Mo.) Do you ever feel like someone's watching you from above as you cruise the highways in Iowa and Missouri? Well it could be an airborne officer with the Highway Patrol. This method of law enforcement is growing more and more useful and keeps officers in the air and on the ground pretty busy.
"Number one to you, just going through the intersection," Sgt. Rod Applebury's voice comes over the radio in his partner's squad car.
That partner is Sergeant Brent Bernhardt who is about to pull someone over for speeding, thanks to a tip from Applebury, who isn't on the ground. He's in the air in the Missouri State Highway Patrol aircraft.
Applebury uses blocks painted on the road to track motorists speed. He also uses two stop watches and a pad for recording stops.
Before any traffic stops can be made, patrolmen in the air and on the ground check their system.
"The blocks are 600 feet from leading edge to leading edge and [a] patrol car will run through those blocks at the speed limit, and the pilot will check his timing watches to ensure that accuracy of his measurement," Bernhardt explained.
Once equipment is checked for accuracy, the pilot begins looking for speeders. When he spots one, he calls to his partner on the ground and the driver is pulled over.
"That is the correct vehicle. It's pulling to the shoulder. It's speed violation number one," Applebury tells his partner. He tracks the car from the air until the trooper pulls it over.
Sometimes speeders can't believe they were caught by an officer in the air. Troopers in the plane and the patrol car are careful to keep track of stops in case they have to go to court.
"I use [this pad] to write down the different vehicles that we stop," Applebury explains.
The plane isn't just for catching speeders. It's about keeping drivers and the officers safe, too.
Back on the ground, Applebury explains why patrol aircraft are being used more and more. He says new highways with wider medians--like the new four-lane Highway 63 between Kirksville and Macon--can be dangerous for troopers to cross.
"Those make it practically impossible for the officer to cross the median to go run a violator down so we've started using more aircraft enforcement," Applebury said.
By using the aircraft, officers are able to stay on one side of a divided highway. According to Applebury, eliminating the cross-over part of the chase keeps troopers and civilian drivers safer.
Even though some drivers might think an officer in the air is a tricky way to catch speeders, officers remind us that speed is the number one cause of crashes.
"The Highway Patrol as well as other law enforcement agencies feel that it is really important to enforce the speed limit laws to make sure that we slow people down so that they're not involved in traffic crashes," Bernhardt said.
--Dana Jay, Reporting