HOUSTON Houston Police Department helicopters are the kind of law enforcement that you probably miss, but their presence has a big impact, the police union said Tuesday.

Law enforcement looked for prison escapee Trent Archie for three days and he was caught with help from an HPD helicopter.

The helicopter units are a fixture in police pursuits and help keep the public safe by allowing officers to not follow so closely.

Infrared cameras help officers to see in the dark, even locating suspects hiding in wait.

I have seen the FLIR video where suspects were laying in wait to ambush [an] officer and the helicopter being on the scene prevented officers from being killed, said Houston Police Union President Gary Blankenship.

It is also why the union can't figure out why the fleet is now spending most of its time on the ground.

We have these assets. We need to have them in the air, Blankenship said.

However, Houston Mayor Annise Parker said the helicopter fleet is not grounded.

The helicopter fleet is being dispatched. They can respond to emergencies, they can all provide backup to officers, all of the things that we are trying to do, said Parker. We are limiting non-response flight time.

But if you believe HPD's 2010 annual report, it is hard to imagine how much of that there is.
HPD says in that report that the air support division, responded to more than 16,000 calls for service. That's 43 a day and more than two an hour, for the 21 hours the choppers flew.

With plenty of success, the same report suggests that the helicopters were involved in more than 1,000 arrests last year.

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