Crime & Justice

Cops in Mexico City suburb use chopper to catch crooks

By Eduard Ribas i Admetlla

Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico, Oct 10 (efe-epa).- Like an animal that stalks its prey from the air, police in this Mexico City suburb use a helicopter dubbed Coyote I to chase suspects.

“Once or twice a week we have pursuits of subjects who are in a state of intoxication and stole a vehicle, or of people who robbed a store,” Maj. Carlos Diego Castro, who pilots the Nezahualcoyotl police helicopter, told Efe Saturday.

Just hours earlier, Coyote I took to the skies to assist in the apprehension of suspects disguised as police.

The municipal government acquired the helicopter in 2004 in a bid to address the high rate of crime in Nezahualcoyotl, a mainly poor city of 1.2 million people on the outskirts of Mexico’s capital.

With its ability to “cover spaces” not accessible to patrol cars, Coyote I “is a necessity, it’s not a luxury,” Castro said.

The chopper spends between two and three hours airborne on a typical day, with missions in the morning, afternoon and night.

While on patrol, the helicopter tends to linger over street markets, shopping centers and banks, with an eye toward deterring muggings, robberies and vehicle thefts, Castro said.

“From the time we take off, we’re are reporting (to Nezahualcoyotl police and other law enforcement agencies) so they see that we’re in the air in case of any pursuit or suspicious situation,” Castro said.

The career police officer had never flown an aircraft when the city acquired the chopper.

“Fortunately, I had my training here,” he said.

Now, with 16 years as a pilot under his belt, Castro is at ease maneuvering the helicopter at speeds of up to 100km/h (60mph) just 60m (297ft) above the ground.

Castro is accompanied by an experienced co-pilot, Capt. Nestor Landeros, and a third crew member.

Besides police work, Coyote I has proven its worth in other ways.

In the first few months of Covid-19, which has claimed 83,000 lives in Mexico, Castro would take the helicopter up to broadcast this message over the loudspeaker: “Stay home.”

“We mainly focused on the commercial areas where people agglomerated to do their shopping,” he recounts.

Coyote I likewise comes in handy when it comes to rescuing people from inaccessible spots and airlifting the sick and injured to the hospital.

The helicopter is ready for takeoff within two minutes of receiving an alert and it needs just three minutes to reach any point in Nezahualcoyotl.

“The most satisfying things are the aero-medical trips,” Castro said. “When we transport people, especially children, it’s satisfying because they are serious situations, minutes of tension to define life or death.” EFE er/dr

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