Members of the NYPD Aviation Unit helped rescue people after Sandy, and now they are being deployed to help prevent looting and watch over waterfront properties. NY1's Criminal Justice reporter Dean Meminger filed the following report.
The New York City Police Department's Aviation Unit is the force's eyes in the sky, on the lookout for would-be thieves that might try to break into homes or businesses still empty after Sandy. It also keeps a close watch on the ocean and bay to see if people try to use boats to sneak into waterfront properties.
"We have the 'night sun,' which is the big light that comes off the helicopter. Just the sight of the light is a deterrent right there," said Lieutenant Richard Knoeller of the NYPD Aviation Unit. "We also have forward-looking infrared systems where we can see a house that would be inhabitable. If we see persons late at night, we're able to radio to get our ground units there quickly."
NY1 took a brief ride with the aviation unit Monday afternoon but fog forced the helicopter to land early.
Members of the unit do not just look out for looters, but also patrol for anyone who may need help. In the wake of Sandy, they have plenty to look out for.
"We will go to Staten Island, Breezy Point, Gerritsen Beach, all of the affected areas," said Jamal Kilkenny of the NYPD Aviation Unit.
The morning after the storm, the unit had to rescue people on Staten Island trapped on rooftops by the rising water that virtually swallowed whole neighborhoods.
Asked for his first reaction to seeing the damaged city, Knoeller said, "I don't think words can describe it, but deep down my heart went out to everyone that was affected. It is hard to bear, it really is, to see the devastation and know how many lives were affected."
Members of the aviation unit say they trained over and over again for a situation like Sandy, but many said they never thought they would actually have to rescue people after a major storm hit New York City.
"You train nonstop for all sorts of scenarios but you never know when or how it's going to take place. So when it happens, you just hope instinct and training kick in and you are able to do it," said Kilkenny.
In addition to its work after the storm, the unit also has its regular duties around the city, including looking out for terror threats.