Out of Sight
GEAUGA COUNTY – On a Monday morning in mid-August, Ohio Trooper George King scrutinized the ground below him. He spotted several plants hidden among the corn in a Geauga County field. They had a very dark green color, a distinct texture and looked too uniformly planted.
They looked just like marijuana.
King radioed the local sheriff’s office. Someone needed to confirm the suspicious plants were, in fact, marijuana. King radioed down to Deputy Matthew Bosworth, directing him and his team to the plants.
With Cornstalks Above Their Heads.
“You have to picture yourself being blind,” Bosworth says. With cornstalks above their heads, they needed King to guide them step by step through the fields to the 4-foot tall marijuana plants.
After confiscating the plants, they investigated who planted them. Ohio State Highway Patrol Lieutenant Randy Boggs says marijuana has always been growing in Ohio, mostly in southern counties, such as Meigs, with 625 plants this year. Trooper pilots were responsible for a total of 3,764 plants confiscated around the July-to-October 2009 growing season.
Finding Marijuana all in a Day’s Work.
Finding marijuana plants is just part of King’s job in the air. He routinely works with a county’s local deputy and troopers along freeways. He targets traffic violators who speed, ride too close, weave erratically or engage in any similarly dangerous driving behavior.
Having an aerial view of the road benefits this work. He can quickly spot a violator and notify a ground trooper of the location and car.
“Aerial law enforcement is essentially a force multiplier,” King says. The response time quickens, it increases the safety of ground troopers and citizens, and it provides a new perspective on events happening below.
He uses this perspective when searching for criminals or missing people. Routine surveillance from above allows him to see into places where cars cannot go, such as fields, yards and brush. He also moves faster and has a wider view of the road.
An Aerial Perspective.
In cases like the marijuana find, King’s aerial perspective enables him to see strange patterns in planting. This, and his knowledge of the plant’s texture, results in more drug busts. Air troopers usually spot marijuana in farm fields, woods, and even gardens and backyards, King said. Ground troopers cannot reach these areas unless on foot by anonymous tip or with a search warrant for a suspected grower’s house.
“It was great to eradicate the marijuana,” King says, “helping to make society better and a little bit more drug free.”
Jessica Roblin is a junior magazine major at Kent State University.