The Night Patrol

Helicopters are strange panoptic law enforcers in Los Angeles.

If someone is on the ground, doing something illegal or offensive, people are sent by car and foot to investigate but also by sky. The copters rattle around, disturbing everyone, as they encircle the area monitoring and helping to “point out” a person below with search lights. You can imagine both how disruptive and hyperbolic these helicopters are, especially when they arrive in the middle of the night.

But it’s been like this for decades: the presence of a helicopter monitoring a situation is far from abnormal for Angelenos. As I recently found on Tumblr, an inventive, creative LA resident took their camera to the sky to capture the flight patterns of these night patrols resulting in a fantastic collection of creepy time lapse images.


The photos capture what it feels like when helicopters are out in your neighborhood by casting them as invasive aliens, poking in, making a big hullaballoo in the sky, then exiting without explanation. The photos were taken in the 1980s in Carson—a city in South Los Angeles—and show how upside down normal neighborhoods can turn when a helicopter barges in while you’re sleeping. This problem isn’t unique to South LA but plagues the entire city, a communal annoyance that no one is immune from. To be an Angeleno is to know what it feels like to have a helicopter wake you up at 3AM to shine a light in your window looking for a criminal (that isn’t you) like fire from the sky.

While I haven’t been able to track down the artist, the series is a delightful little morsel of local science non-fiction that any LA person can relate to. You can view the entire set of photos here.




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