The decision was in the works for some time, but a spike in violent crime at the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013 pushed it forward, said Lt. Chris McIntire, commander of the Rockford state police post.
"It's also a state police priority for us to do what we can and give all the resources we can to the area," McIntire said. "We felt it a benefit to bring our aviation section over here."
The patrols are an extension of crime-fighting efforts discussed in February by U.S. Attorney Patrick Miles Jr., McIntire said.
The patrols began this week and will continue through June under the current plan, but likely will be extended, McIntire said. Previously, state police flew over West Michigan when requested or during special operations such as searches for marijuana growing operations.
The cost for patrols is part of the existing state police budget. Helicopters routinely patrol over Detroit, Flint and Saginaw.
A state police helicopter will fly from Lansing two or three days a week and assist police agencies from the air for 4-5 hours, said Sgt. Jerry King, a pilot in the state police's aviation unit.
While in the air, a pilot and co-pilot will listen to radio traffic of local agencies, and will go to an area if they think they are needed. The helicopter will assist with traffic stops, vehicle chases, searches for suspects and missing people, drug enforcement, and rescues.
"If we can make it more safe for the people on the ground, that's what we're all about," King said.
A helicopter assisted Grand Rapids police Wednesday in the search for a suspect who ran from officers. The man was wanted on misdemeanor warrants for traffic offenses, and police were concerned he might have a weapon. He was found hiding in bushes at a park.
The helicopter also flew over 20-25 traffic stops on Wednesday night, King said.