BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A high-tech piece of equipment helped police find the younger Boston Marathon bombing suspect.

Derek Valcourt has more on this useful crime fighting tool.

Police have long had cameras mounted in their helicopters.

Helicopter thermal images show the outline of bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as he hid inside a canvas-covered boat in a Watertown, Mass. backyard. The images provided authorities with valuable information to determine if the suspect was still alive and whether he had hostages.

“And in essence, a few thousand dollars and an infrared camera was able to get the situation under control,” said Maryland State Police Lt. Walter Kerr.

Kerr gave WJZ a look at the high-tech thermal imaging cameras mounted on board one of their new $12 million helicopters housed at Martin State Airport.

“[We use this] across the state every single night,” Kerr said.

Thermal imaging detects body heat, showing glowing images of living things easy to see at night, in buildings or dense trees.

Thermal imaging technology has been around for decades, but thanks to huge improvements in the technology, including high-definition cameras and monitors, police can see better than ever.

Here’s an example: as a cadet hides under garbage bags–invisible to the naked eye–the thermal camera picks up his heat signature. It also helps firefighters see through smoke and comes in handy in the search for missing people, like it did for elderly dementia patient Richard Holcomb, who was lost in the woods.

But often, police use it to track criminals in the dark.

“To look around the corner, to see what’s next and to get ahead of them,” Kerr said.

It’s a valuable tool that minimizes risk to officers on the ground.

It’s important to point out that Maryland State Police aren’t the only ones using this technology. Police helicopters in Baltimore City and the surrounding counties use it, as well.

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