OZARK, Ala. (WDHN) — Here in the Wiregrass, a program known as “W.A.S.P.” uses aircraft to aid authorities in finding missing persons.
The helicopters that are a part of this program were donated to this department from a military surplus program and cover multiple counties throughout the Wiregrass.
“A lot of people don’t realize that it is a partnership with a lot of different agencies, and we pull our resources together to try to provide a service to the wiregrass, on very minimal cost to the taxpayer,” said Mason Bynum, chief deputy with the Dale County Sheriff’s Office. “These aircraft handle a multitude of different scenarios, from crimes in progress, to locating missing children or elderly, with help from the ‘FLIR’ or forward looking infrared.”
This allows for the police to see at night, using body heat to detect where the person in question is.
With this technology, a larger area can be covered much faster than a ground unit could cover.
Not only does this thermal imaging camera help locate a missing persons or missing suspect, but it also helps to keep officers on the ground as safe as possible.
Just recently, the DCSO received a call from another local police department to help them solve the a missing persons case.
“Last Friday night, Enterprise Police Department contacted us and told us they had a missing child in the woods in a swampy area,” Bynum said. “So we launched our aviation unit, partnered with an Enterprise police officer, and we were able to quickly get over there and locate a child on the infrared, and walk the ground units in to locate him and get a safe outcome.”
Throughout the 20 years wasp has operated, many hours have been spent helping the community.
“We operate 24 hours a day,” Chief Pilot of Dale County Sheriff’s Tim McDonald said. “We have seen many lives saved. We have the technology in the FLIR system, and the night sun to be able to support these type missions.”