Thermal imaging device lets sheriff's deputies 'see' in the dark

Thermal imaging device lets sheriff's deputies 'see' in the dark »Play Video
Thermal imaging allows sheriff's deputies to 'see' at night.

EUGENE, Ore. -- A new technological sidekick is saving sheriff's deputies some time so they can respond to more calls. They need the help: Sometimes only  two deputies are on night patrol for all of Lane County.

Sheriff Deputy DJ Mann says the department's new thermal imaging device is a huge advantage when the world turns dark.

"Walking around at night you can move around without having to use your flashlight with this," said Mann.

The device can detect heat from an object, making it easy to spot at night. And because it doesn't have a light, the deputy can stay hidden.

"If we go to an armed suicidal at a residence, before we make contact we can get this device out and scan the area and make sure that someone is not waiting in ambush," said Mann. 

Deputy Aaron Hoberg experienced this first hand searching for suspects. He said it was large area to search and he had no idea where they were. 

"Once we got around the bushes we could see two subjects laying clearly in the grass hidden but with the thermal imaging device we could see their form easily," said Hoberg.  

The Lane County Sheriff's Office received the device as surplus from Homeland Security. It can spot a person 500 meters away and has a zoom feature that can detect objects at 1,500 meters based on their size.  

It can also find weapons like a gun because they may still have a heat signature and appear different than things around them.

When this is detected, the image will turn bright white in the viewer. Making it easier for sheriff's to find things that would usually be undetected, like tire tracks.

Deputy Mann said the device gives sheriffs extra safety on calls. Something that is needed when your patroling the streets at night alone.

The device was also used to bust underage drinkers partying on the coast near Florence.  Deputies held a night patrol last month targeting problem areas near the sand dunes.  They were able to find several of the teenagers and issue them tickets for being minors in possession of alcohol.