Rush Hour In Omaha: OPD's ABLE-1 Keeping Watch Over Traffic

By: Melina MatthesMMatthes@kptm.comOMAHA (kptm) - It's nothing new, rush hour. It occurs twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. The majority of people hate spending that time in the car, but there is something out there that's now trying to make it a little smoother. Fox 42's Melina Matthes spent some time this week with ABLE 1, the Omaha Police Department's Air Borne Law Enforcement team, and the pilots said they're trying to make your next drive home a little easier.Rush hour in Omahait's the time of day when extreme traffic congestion sets in and it has drivers around town engaging in road rage. It's something the pilots of ABLE 1 see every day. "We definitely pay very close attention to the traffic patterns because it increases the road rage incidents and affects everybody's mood and in turn may effect something a little bit later on at night and if we can help to clear things up, we're happy to do it," Pilot Matt Baughman said.I wanted to get the bird's eye view of the traffic problem in town. So after suiting up, I'm ready to get airborne. With a few final checks, we're ready for takeoff. I have to admit I'm a little nervousthe helicopter doesn't have any doors, it's a little older, and it's one of the ones being phased out.In a matter of seconds the helicopter is off the ground and we're heading to the biggest problem"75 southbound to westbound 80 is huge. Every day we fly over it and we're like oh my gosh there's got to be an accident or something down there and almost every day we're surprised at how slow the merge is in that particular area," Baughman said.To help the flow of traffic, the pilots alert dispatch to problems they see from above."There's a lot of traffic at very specific times of the day and I know I don't like getting caught in it and I often wonder if somebody's working on it when I'm in it, so I'm just doing a favor for everybody elsehelping things along," Baughman said.While the pilots are always helping to clear congestion on major roadways, they're always looking for crime.And as the sun sets over Omaha, the pilots prepare to help fight crime down below, but first we have to switch helicopters. Then the pilots gear up, checking the spotlight and making sure the infrared camera is ready."Which allows us to then find suspects that are in the dark, locate vehicles that are warm that may have been ditched after a hit and run. We've found a lot of missing children and a lot of vulnerable adults."Within minutes of getting set up, a crook flees from a cop during a traffic stop, but the criminal wasn't wearing a shirt, an easy target for the pilots."Somebody with no shirt on that's been running is going to stand out like holding a golf ball against a blacktop parking lot."As the pilots of ABLE-1 are looking for the suspect on the ground, they're using their infrared technology; it's called FLIR, as well as their spotlight to find him. Officers down below swarm the block and tighten the perimeter around the suspect, but before the crook is caught we're heading to the next officer needing back up.The flight was an eye opening experience and even though the pilots didn't catch any suspects they said they're always watching for bad guys.If you want to get an inside look at a day in the life of an OPD ABLE-1 pilot you can do so on Twitter. Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said he wants his officers to be more transparent. To achieve that goal, he allows the cops to use social media. The majority use twitter. Here is a list of a few of the officers on Twitter:@omahapolice@OPDABLE1@OPDCrimeStop@OPDLtTierney@OPDOfcPecha@OPDofcShade@OPDPIOWiese"Like" Melina on Facebook and follow her on Twitter to stay connected.