WINTHROP HARBOR, Ill – State, local and federal officials celebrated today as they received a helicopter from the federal government as a result of the state’s ongoing effort to increase public safety in Northern Illinois. The surplus military helicopter – acquired at no cost to the state – will soon enhance counter-drug and counter-terrorism operations in communities throughout the region.
The Bell OH-58A helicopter was flown into Winthrop Harbor and it was transferred to the local Police Department through a state program that secures federal surplus property on behalf of local law enforcement agencies statewide – the Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO), coordinated by the Illinois Department of Central Management Services (CMS). The helicopter, originally purchased by the U.S. Department of Defense for $92,290, will help monitor and secure nuclear facilities located approximately 60 miles north of Chicago, as well as enhance the public safety services along the Illinois lakefront of Lake Michigan.
“Police officers and other public safety officials throughout the region have a new tool to keep people safe, because this new helicopter will be dedicated to counter-terrorism and drug-enforcement activities,” said CMS Director Paul Campbell. “The state helped law enforcement agencies from throughout Illinois to acquire a record amount of public safety equipment from the Federal government last year, thanks to Gov. Blagojevich’s challenge to heighten our efforts and grow this program.”
Through CMS, law enforcement agencies statewide annually obtain millions of dollars in equipment that they need to operate effectively. As the statewide coordinator for the national LESO program, CMS works to locate and secure vehicles, furniture, electronics and other unneeded federal property to match the logistical requirements of hundreds of state, county and municipal police agencies in Illinois. Priority is given to agencies that use the surplus U.S. Department of Defense property for counter-drug enforcement and counter-terrorism purposes.
“This helicopter heightens the tools that we have at our disposal as public safety officials increase surveillance of our critical lakefront and energy production facilities in the region. Gov. Blagojevich has made significant investments in new homeland defense equipment, and it’s even better when we can obtain this surplus equipment from the federal government at no cost,” said Col. Jill Morgenthaler, the Governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Public Safety.
This helicopter is the second Defense Department helicopter that CMS has secured for Illinois. Last year, CMS coordinated and approved the transfer of the state’s first OH-58 to Countryside Police Department in Will County. Since being placed into service in October 2005, the helicopter has logged more than 100 flight hours on homeland security, counter-drug, and search and rescue missions.
In the fiscal year that ended June 30, CMS obtained surplus equipment worth $5.1 million for Illinois police agencies – up 34%, or $1.3 million, from the previous year, and nearly double the $2.7 million provided in Fiscal Year 2004.
Altogether, the CMS/LESO program serves more than 680 state, county, municipal, and special task forces across Illinois. In January 2006, CMS was recognized by the Chicago Police Department with an Appreciation of Service award for its successful efforts to locate and approve the transfer of federal property including Kevlar vests, helmets, IT equipment, and more for use in Chicago-area precincts. Last year CMS approved the transfer of more than $725,000 in property to the department.