Eyes in the sky, zooming in on criminals - FOX 13 News

Eyes in the sky, zooming in on criminals

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

The Hillsborough County sheriff's aviation unit patrols around the clock, and they will spend a lot of their time above the malls this holiday season.

Whatever is happening outside the mall while you're grabbing bargains, they are all over it.

What are they looking for?

"Anyone loitering in the parking lot, anyone walking in between vehicles for longer periods of time," says co-pilot Paul Rogers.

During the holidays, every mall, every car, every person is checked out.

Rogers and pilot Jay Bridwell have seen it all before, and know what to look for.

"Obviously, you see one guy who is at one vehicle tugging on the door, and the next minute he's on the other side of the parking lot, tugging on another door. That's going to strike us as being suspicious," Rogers says.

But sometimes shoppers make it too easy for crooks by leaving bags and packages in plain sight.

"When you got a bunch of stuff laying out in plain sight, that's going to be a target much quicker than a car that doesn't have all that stuff out in plain sight," Rogers said.

While we were flying with them above the Citrus Park Mall, the aviation team spots a car parked by a dumpster. They hone in on it, and it turns out to be a pizza delivery.

Then they are called away from the mall to a call about a man with a gun involved in a fight. They get a report of a man with a gun involved in an altercation.

If he runs, they would track him from the air.

He eventually decides to surrender.

Bridwell says sometimes, just the sound of the chopper circling above makes criminals think twice.

"It's an advertisement in a sense…sheriff's office is out, we are flying around, we are checking things. If you're coming to the malls, you want to break into cars, you're probably going to pick the wrong spot."

And you can bet the aviation team will find you.

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