Saturday, Dec. 16

Acquisition of helicopters from federal government will strengthen public safety in Rockford, Peoria          Send a link to a friend

[DEC. 16, 2006] CHICAGO -- Continuing his efforts to enhance public safety in Illinois, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich announced Nov. 22 that the state will acquire from the federal government two helicopters that will be available for search-and-rescue, counter-drug and counter-terrorism operations in Illinois. The helicopters will be provided to Rockford and Peoria area police departments to assist public safety officials in these regions.

The Belvidere and Byron police departments will each receive a Bell OH-58A helicopter through a state program -- the Law Enforcement Support Office, coordinated by the Illinois Department of Central Management Services -- that secures federal surplus on behalf of local law enforcement agencies. The helicopters, previously used by the U.S. Department of Defense, will meet regional public safety needs with no acquisition costs to the state or local agencies.

"Law enforcement officers in Peoria and Rockford now have new tools to help protect their communities," Blagojevich said. "These helicopters flying overhead will help fight drugs, terrorists and also help in search and rescue."

In addition to the helicopters for Belvidere and Byron, the state previously coordinated and approved the transfer of two helicopters from the federal government to local law enforcement agencies: Countryside Police Department in Will County and Winthrop Harbor in Lake County. Together, these four helicopters will enhance Illinois' homeland security.

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Law enforcement agencies statewide annually obtain millions of dollars in equipment that they need to operate effectively, including vehicles, furniture, electronics and other unneeded federal property. In the fiscal year that ended June 30, Central Management Services obtained a record amount of surplus equipment, totaling $5.1 million for Illinois police agencies. That amount is up 34 percent, or $1.3 million, from the previous year and nearly double the $2.7 million provided in fiscal 2004.

"Recently I learned about how one of the helicopters the state previously acquired was used to help to find a missing person, and I know that this equipment is impacting people's lives," said Paul Campbell, director of Central Management Services. "These helicopters also play a role in improving counter-terrorism and drug-enforcement activities in Illinois, and that means safer neighborhoods and communities for our families."

State officials continue to work with the Department of Defense to identify communities where additional public safety equipment can be transferred.

[News release from the governor's office]


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