MADISON, Wis. - The Wisconsin State Patrol is ramping up its aerial enforcement and for the first time troopers are using social media to help share where they'll be.
The use of pilots and airplanes to patrol the roads has been around for decades, but for the first time the Wisconsin Department of Transportation is using Twitter to alert drivers where they will be monitoring. Officials said the tactic is all about keeping drivers safe on the roads.
"Our goal is not to write more citations," said Sgt. Ryan Chaffee, who has been with the State Patrol since 2000. "The Wisconsin State Patrol has been utilizing aircrafts since the late 1950s for law enforcement purposes."
Chaffee is one of six pilots in the state certified to fly aerial enforcement missions, keeping roads safe from the sky. The pilots radio to patrol officers on the ground.
"Most recently we have been promoting those through the social media aspect through Twitter and our goal is to reduce these traffic fatalities," Chaffee said.
The patrols are announced on WisDOT's Twitter account or with the hashtag #WisDOT. Some may think stepped up enforcement is a speed trap, but Chaffee disagrees.
"It's not a speed trap, the speed remains 65 miles per hour in most of the zones we operate in unless it's a construction zone," Chaffee said.
Motorists News 3 spoke to said they think safety is important, and if the state has the technology they might as well use it.
"It's a good safety issue. Trust me I have paid my weight in gold for speed and parking tickets in aerial and camera, so I find that to be oppressive in some way, but at the end of the day I do recognize it is for safety measures," said Brian Crocitto, a motorist.
"I think the surveillance is OK and the technology is available and why not leverage it? And I think the notification to the motorist is also appropriate," said Curt Fuszard, a motorist.
"Anyway we can get to the public and announce to them, ‘Hey, we were up here monitoring driving behavior not just you, just everyone around you in order to reach our goal of zero preventable traffic deaths in Wisconsin.' So I think it's a positive and we do have more advanced equipment than we did in 1950," Chaffee said.
Each mission is usually one pilot in a state-owned plane and four troopers on the ground in cars.
Chaffee said that federal grant money is used to help ramp up enforcement. Last year the State Patrol Air Support Unit conducted 64 aerial missions that resulted in over 2,000 traffic stops.
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