COOK COUNTY, IL – Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart thanked the Cook County Board of Commissioners today for authorizing funding to acquire a police helicopter to combat the violent crime plaguing our community, assist in large-scale emergency situations, and help locate missing people.
“Helicopters are a game changer, particularly in tracking carjackers and coordinating emergency response to major incidents,” Sheriff Dart said. “Having a helicopter monitor carjacking offenders from the sky increases the chances of the offender being caught. Additionally, the helicopter helps avoid potentially dangerous pursuits, which reduces the chances of innocent civilians being killed or hurt by a fleeing offender.”
The Sheriff’s Office works closely with Chicago Police, the Illinois State Police, and local and federal law enforcement to help reduce carjackings that have overwhelmed the city and suburbs. The Sheriff’s Office routinely assists local police in search and rescue missions, regularly sending in K9 officers to help locate missing and endangered people. The Sheriff’s Office also would be one of the lead agencies in responding to large-scale emergency situations, including natural disasters such as floods and tornados.
Unfortunately, the two helicopters that are currently shared by the City of Chicago and the Sheriff’s Office are often out of service due to maintenance issues or are grounded by inclement weather that they are unequipped to navigate.
While Cook County is among the largest metropolitan areas in the nation, its helicopter fleet lags far behind other large urban areas. The Los Angeles metropolitan area has 35 police helicopters, and the New York City Police Department has recently purchased two additional helicopters, increasing their fleet to nine.
“This is an incredibly important investment by the county,” Sheriff Dart said. “I appreciate the County Board realizing how important of an asset this is to the Sheriff’s Office and am grateful they allocated the financial resources necessary to protect the safety and security of Cook County residents.”
The budget amendment approved today reserves $11.4 million dollars in the FY2023 budget for the procurement of a helicopter and related equipment. The reserve is being carried forward from funds that were unutilized in the current fiscal year. Additionally, the Sheriff’s Office has secured a $2.5 million federal Urban Areas Security Initiative grant for use toward acquiring the helicopter and equipment.
The Sheriff’s Office will work in the coming months with county officials to secure a helicopter as well as acquire related necessities, including staff, storage, and maintenance. A final cost for leasing or purchasing a helicopter will be determined during that process. The Sheriff’s Office hopes to have the helicopter operational by late summer early fall of 2023.