San Diego Sheriff

Answer to Age-Old Question: ‘What's the Helicopter Saying?'

One of the ASTREA helicopters

"Looking for a _______ man wearing ______, who was seen in _______. He _______ believed to be _______ and _______."

Who's that helping, really?

The San Diego County Sheriff's Department has taken it upon itself to enable listeners on the ground, who have been plagued for decades by the Doppler effect, to figure out who, exactly, deputies are looking for and why -- or what they're announcing in general, of course.

As they put it: "Sheriff's ASTREA (helicopter) uses a loudspeaker when searching for a missing person or suspect. Announcements are also made during critical incidents such as a SWAT standoff, disasters, crowd management events or to give people a shelter in place notification."

Anybody who texts "Hello" to (858) 866-HELO (4356) can now have chopper messages sent to their phone in reply.

The department has uploaded a video if you need more of an explanation, and it includes a handy QR code you can scan to receive the messages straight to your phone.

The news from the department comes with a couple caveats: This is not a push service, though. You have to text "Hello" to that number every time you want to know what ASTREA is saying. Also, this only works in areas the department patrols. Finally, message and data rates may apply.

Fun fact: The department has nine helicopters in the Aerial Support to Regional Enforcement Agencies (ASTREA) program.

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