Published: Apr 24, 2010 3:43 AM EDT

COLLIER COUNTY - New technology helps detectives find a stolen piece of equipment in less than 45 minutes.

The Sheriff's Office Bell OH-58 isn't just a helicopter, it's a search and discovery machine. Onboard is a LoJack receiver

it can literally find a stolen vehicle in minutes.

"We can do a scan of the entire county in one flight for any stolen vehicles equipped with LoJack," says helicopter pilot Corporal Ed Henderson.

LoJack installed the receiver on both Collier County Sheriff's Office helicopters for free. It went online in February and has already helped recover two huge pieces of stolen machinery.

The most recent, a $70 thousand backhoe. It was stolen from a farm on Edwards Grove Road in Immokalee earlier this week.

Corporal Henderson headed up the search.

"Its added another dimension to our work," says Corporal Henderson.

The four antennas on the helicopter act like a homing device. When one gets a strong signal it directs the pilot a certain way.

"It transmits a beacon with a retrieval code," says Corporal Henderson.


Corporal Henderson followed the beacon from Immokalee to 38th St. SW and Beth Avenue in Lehigh Acres. Directly below him was the backhoe.

"It was pulled into a vacant lot and off the roadway," says Corporal Henderson.

Cpl. Henderson called Lee County for backup and a patrol car came right away. Now, the backhoe is back in Immokalee and back to work. The Bell OH-58 is ready for its next missing mission.

The Sheriff's Office has not arrested anyone for stealing the backhoe. Detectives are investigating.